Taking the kids to a warm weather destination for spring break this year? Letting little ones splash and play in the water is a great way to spend some family time together, but it also is the perfect time to strengthen water safety skills before summer arrives in Northeast Ohio.
Use the first 10 minutes together in the water to build on what your child may have already learned in swim lessons. Depending on the age and skill level of your swimmer, this can range from kicking in place to practicing strokes. Note: regardless of skill level, parents must supervise children at all times. This means leaving the flotation devices off to the side and getting IN the water with your child.
Here are some skills you can focus on to help build progress on water safety skills:
Basic swim skills for beginners:
- Use a small cup and gently pour water over your child’s head. This will get them comfortable with the water prior to going under. Before doing anything, it is important to offer a verbal cue or “1, 2, 3” so your child can anticipate and not be surprised by what is about to happen.
- If your child isn’t ready to venture out in the water, let them play on the pool steps with toys.
- An important precursor to swimming is learning how to breathe in the pool. To ease into this, have your child blow bubbles in the water. After bubbles, encourage your child to dip their face in the water as this is less intimidating than asking them to go under water.
- Once your child is comfortable with holding their breath, work on independent floating. One way to go about this is to use a pool noodle under the child’s arms.
- Practice kicking feet and pulling arms. Parents can do this by holding the child or using a flotation device such as a noodle placed under the child’s arms.
- Help your child float on their back. Parents can cradle the child’s head on their shoulders and hold the child’s hands outstretched to either side. This often helps the child feel safer than holding them away from you perpendicularly.
Basic swim skills for more advanced swimmers:
If your child has gotten the basics down and can confidently swim on their own, here are some great tips and tricks to improve form and breathing:
- Practice underwater swimming with dive sticks and sinking toys. You can even turn this into a game!
- Have your child swim with their face in the water and kicking in a streamline position. This can be really helpful when working on their form.
- Floating and gliding on their backs. This is a great introduction to both the elementary backstroke and the regular backstroke.
- Treading water. Treading water is essential to build up core strength in the pool and sets the tone for discipline in the water.
Regardless of skill level, here are some mandatory water safety skills that all swimmers must be familiar with:
- Climbing out of the pool safely: elbow, elbow, tummy, knees!
- Holding on to the wall and walking hands along the wall to safety (the steps or ladder).
- Rolling over from a front float to a back float.
- Jumping off the side of the pool, swimming to the parent, turning themselves around and swimming back to the wall. Teaching kids to get back to the side of the pool quickly is an essential safety skill.
Keep in mind that your time together in the water should be positive and fun. Kids will make progress if you work on these skills regularly and celebrate their successes.
By Sonali Morris, a mother of two and the owner of Goldfish Swim School Cleveland East Side and Goldfish Swim School Fairview Park. Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years in a unique setting with highly trained instructors, small class sizes (max 4:1 student-teacher ratio), shiver-free 90-degree pools, and a state-of-the-art water purification system. Visit goldfishswimschool.com for more information.