As a keen swimmers we can wax lyrical about the many benefits of swimming but, as a swimming teachers, we know not every child is excited about going in the water. There are some simple steps that will help even the most reluctant swimmer get their toes wet.
Before you start
What’s that saying about preparation: “By failing to prepare you’re preparing to fail”? It may be a bit heavy-handed but the sentiment is true. Before you even consider swimming lessons, think about other ways to get your children used to water. The easiest (and loveliest) way to do this is by using the bath or shower — using a flannel and eventually a cup, the baby can gently be introduced to the sensation of water on their face. Just be mindful that you want bath time to be a happy and relaxed time. Zen, now.
Next step: relax
Now that you have bath times mastered and you’re graduating to the pool and swimming lessons, think about how you feel around water. Anxious parents make anxious swimmers. Try to relax, your kids are in good hands. And if you’re afraid of water, consider taking lessons yourself so you can comfortably join your children in the pool — you’re never too old to learn how to swim.
Go to the pool early and often
The single biggest factor in helping your kids love the water is getting them into the water early and often. Visit the pool without any pressure to get in. Allow your kids to become familiar with the different sights and sounds of a swimming pool. Let them observe and let their curiosity drive the experience. Frequent visits to the pool make the water normal, nothing to be feared (as long as you follow simple rules), so sign up for those baby or toddler classes or take your kids to the local aquatic centre to play.
Baby swimming lessons are all about learning to love the water — playing games and singing songs to allay any fears, all the while getting key safety messages. Young children learn more quickly when parents interact with them in the pool, so make it a family activity. And have fun.
But my kid is already a reluctant swimmer
If you have a child who already has an intense reaction to the pool environment, think about why they’re reluctant… Have they had a bad experience? Is the pool too cold or too noisy? Are they shy and unsure of swimming with their instructor?
There are many reasons why children may be reluctant to get in the pool but if we know why, then we can work out how to ‘grow their gills’. These tips may help.
Don’t pressure kids or trick them into skills they’re not ready for
Praise their baby steps; trust they’ll make progress when the time is right. At Carlile, we have a no force policy. We won’t force your kids to get into the pool or complete an activity if they’re not comfortable. Working at their pace, we gently assist with getting them comfortable and relaxed, and to engage as a willing and happy learner in the class.
Keep it fun
We’ve said it before, but it’s so important to keep it fun. If swimming lessons are the most challenging half an hour of your week, talk to the supervisor (blue shirt, orange iPad). If that doesn’t work, change it up — days, teachers, time of the day. Start swimming for fun. Remember the joy of swimming, just for pleasure (as long as you are comfortable in the pool).
Try somewhere new
It might be something as simple as a cold changing room or a pool that gets waves that puts your child off swimming. Try a different location. Make the most of available swimming pools on your summer holiday, when they may be encouraged by seeing other children having fun swimming outdoors in the sun.
Make it social
Peer pressure can work wonders in encouraging reluctant children into the water. Take them to watch older siblings, or arrange to go swimming with a friend who has children of a similar age who love to swim. Go into the water with your child so you can stay close to them and show them there is nothing to fear.
Respond to their concerns. By listening to and acknowledging your child’s fears you’re building security and trust, not feeding the fear. Most of all, be patient. Swimming is such an important skill; it’s worth persevering.