Friday, June 10, 2011

Teaching Your Child to Swim

If you are a stay at home mom, chances are you look for ways to save money. And even if you don't, teaching your child to swim yourself is a great option as long as you and your child are both into it. Many parents are intimidated about teaching their child such an important skill. I can understand, since I was nervous about teaching my kids to read. Even with a teaching degree, I felt like I wasn't equipped to teach a child to read, simply because I had never done it before. And when there are people who are trained to do something, whether it's teaching someone to read or teaching someone to swim, we assume that in order to do it, it requires training that we don't have. Not true.

People have commented that trained teachers are better than parents trying to teach their child. This is a misconception. I mean, who trained your child to go on the potty? Or ride a bike? Or how to tie his shoes? A parent IS a teacher. And no matter what you want to teach, you can do it if you want to learn the skills yourself. Swimming is no different.

The most important thing to rememer about teaching your child to swim is that they MUST spend time in the water, almost daily, in order to become a proficient swimmer. I've seen parents take their kids to swimming lessons, and then never take them to the pool. Summer after summer, they still don't know how to swim. My kids taught themselves how to swim at about ages 4 and 5. The local pool was within walking distance of our house, but it was more convenient for us to have a pool in the backyard. We just happened to purchase an Intex pool on clearance the summer before for about $75. It was the biggest pool they made, and it was perfect for my children. I could adjust the level of the water. As they got better in the water, I added more water until it was at a level where it was quicker to swim from one spot to another than it was to wallk. Having the pool so convenient made it possible to go swimming multiple times each day.

Oddly enough, my younger child (girl) learned how to swim before my oldest (boy). Once he saw her swimming, he was determined. But he could not progress because he did not want to put his face in the water. If you have ever tried to swim with your head up, you know how difficult this is. So one day, I purchased a mask and snorkel for each child. My son put his on, looked into the water, and I could hear through the snorkel, "THIS IS AWESOME!" We were at the public swimming pool and he could see EVERYTHING under the water. Immediately, his feet came up behind him and he started kicking. He was swimming. If your child has an aversion to water in his face, I suggest doing the same thing. My son is now 10 and still HAS to wear goggles whenever he swims, but he's swimming! My children have been swimming on the swim team for 3-4 years and now know all four strokes!

So you might be wondering where to start. If you break down the lessons, you will need to go in this order:

1. Submersion
2. Floating
3. Kicking
4. Arm movement
5. Breathing

Techinically, by step 3, your child is "swimming." Steps 4 and 5 teach them how to do the front crawl, or "freestyle" as it is commonly called. Please remember that these lessons are slow and calm. The children in the video obviously already know how to do the skills demonstrated. Your child might be tense, panicky, and difficult to work with. Use a calm voice and help him relax. Take it slow. Work on one skill at a time and work at your child's pace. Also, review the skills each time you get in the water. For instance, once your child is able to dive for toys, start with that next time.

The links above are videos on how to teach each step. I hope you find these helpful and have an enjoyable summer in the pool. If it's as hot where you live as it has already been here this spring, you will be spending a LOT of time at the pool! Have a great summer!


Karen said...

One thing you have going for you as a parent when you're teaching your own kids to swim is that they already trust you. It's a scary proposition to get into a swimming pool with a grownup you've never met before. Can you really be sure they're not going to drop you?

I like to teach treading water before floating. Floating is actually a really tough skill for lots of kids because kids' bodies aren't usually as buoyant as adults'.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post! I've been teaching my sons to swim with an online swim course for parents. It's been extremely efficient for my children and now they're beginning to swim on their own. I found the course at