Swimming is not only fun and good exercise, it’s a potentially life-saving skill. Every year, around 40 children drown in the UK, according to RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). It’s little wonder then that parents feel anxious to tick ‘Teach Junior To Swim’ off their ‘to do’ list.
But for many children, cold water, shrieking, splashing and bigger kids jumping in can be very off-putting. Should these reluctant swimmers be dragged – kicking and screaming, if that’s what it takes – to the pool?
I hear kids crying before they’ve left the changing rooms,’ says Swim School principal, Diana Benjamin. ‘It makes me wonder what the parents are expecting to achieve – apart from a lifelong dread of water! ‘It’s important to remember that if children enjoy what they’re doing, they learn quickly,’ she adds.
So here are tips to help your child gain confidence in the water…
- Start in the bathtub. Let her pretend to swim, squeeze the sponge over her face and flick water at each other so she gets used to the feel of it on her face.
- Find a leisure centre with a beginners’ pool. This will be shallow and warm – and the older children will confine their dive-bombing to the big pool!
- Don’t plunge straight in. Sit on the side and let her dangle her feet in the water. Encourage her to kick and make a splash.
- Sing nursery rhymes, such as Humpty Dumpty – dropping into the water when Humpy has his fall.
- Encourage her to put her face in the water – blow bubbles, bob up and down like a cork or look for items submerged in the water.
- Lie on your back holding your child around her waist, with her arms around your neck. Glide around the pool to let her enjoy moving through the water.
- When she wants more independence, try armbands. They allow her to get into a good swimming position and help her co-ordinate arm and leg movements.
- Consider signing up for swimming lessons. Many children who won’t so much as dip a toe in the water for Mum and Dad, will happily dive in the deep end if the swimming instructor says so!
- Share a treat after your swim. Hot chocolate and a biscuit taste extra special after swallowing all that chlorine!