The summer season is almost upon us, and that most likely means long days at the lake, or splashing around at the pool. But if you’re wary of the water, it doesn’t mean that you have to banish the beach from your plans. That’s why it’s important to teach your child to swim, and thankfully, you don’t have to be a lifeguard to give the lessons.
Before you put your guppy in the water, it’s ideal to assess their pre-swim skill set, according to Kathy Hubbard, a water safety expert. “Learning to swim is not an event, but rather a process, where skills are developed at a gradual pace,” says Hubbard. “Starting simple and becoming more complex through positive reinforcement and recognition of familiar patterns of movement is how to master swimming.”
So if you want Baby to begin learning to swim, these are the steps that your little fishie will need to finesse.
Put Your Baby In The Bathtub
If you thought that you had to start big by putting your baby in the ocean, think again. When your child is first learning to swim, it’s best to start right at home — and more specifically, in your tub. “Get in the tub with your newborns and little ones,” says Hubbard. “Let them float on their backs by holding the babies behind the shoulders and holding the head so the baby can’t turn their mouth or nose into the water.” Your baby will love it, since it will feel like a new game that’s being played during bath time.
Use A Wet Washcloth
Once your baby feels fine floating, they’ll need to get used to the idea of their head (and especially their face) being covered. “Drag a damp washcloth over their head from front to back,” says Hubbard. “Move slowly and gently so they are not startled.” She suggests going slowly at first, and then gradually progressing to a soaked washcloth and then a cup.
Stick Them In The Shower
The goal with getting your child ready to swim is to remove the startle reflex that can occur when water splashes suddenly in their faces. So turn on the water, set it at a warm temperature, and be ready to take a shower with your little sweetie. “Hold them in the shower and let the water roll down the back of their head,” advises Hubbard. “Gradually progress to more water coming over their head.” Eventually your child will get used to the idea of the water streaming over their head.
Teach Your Baby Breath Control
It can be scary to submerge your baby in the water — for both of you. And it’s definitely not a step that can be skipped or hurried through. “Breath control, being the most basic foundation, cannot be rushed or taken for granted,” says Hubbard. “A child can ‘survive’ a submersion without having good breath control. Take the time to teach good, solid breath control before moving on to more advanced skills.” Hubbard says that babies can learn to hold their breath at very young ages, and can handle an underwater submersion if they’ve had the proper water acclimation drills. “Babies are often self submerging by 6 months and ‘going underwater’ is a natural progression with no tears and fears,” she says. “But breath control is the first step to learning how to swim.”
Teaching your baby to swim is not an overnight process. Your little one is going to have to master several skills in order to swim, such as breath control, buoyancy, balance, and movement. But by being consistent, repetitive, supportive, and calm, you’ll soon have a sweet (and safer) swimmer.