There is much to teach your child as they grow up — and what they learn as a child shapes how they grow into adults. Swimming is a valuable life tool that may not only save your child’s life, but allow them to save others, on top of being a fun way to encourage them to stay active and strong. Teaching them how to swim is important, but doing it right all the more important.
Knowing When to Teach Your Child
Several sources recommend that it is best to teach your child to swim early, but carefully, and in stages as they grow. Parents should take their children to swim under close supervision, with guidance between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Parents should avoid teaching their child how swim on their own before the age of 4. Once they have reached this age, they will possess the focus and memory they will need in order to swim on their own, and may no longer need direct adult supervision.
Teaching Early On
Before they can swim on their own, it is important to carefully introduce your children to the water. They should be guided by your arms, and held in such a way that they don’t go underwater. Infant drowning can occur in as little as thirty seconds. Children under the age of three should not swallow or consume too much water. Over consumption of water can cause water intoxication; due to the chemical balance in their blood, it can be very easily diluted, which can be harmful or even fatal to a baby. Thus, small children must always be under adult supervision and guidance when in or near the water. Remember, the focus of these early lessons is only to introduce the child to the water, not to have them swimming on their own so soon.
Parents who own pools should take precautions to prevent their child from entering the pool without them. Accidents happen, installing a fence and keeping doors locked to pool areas is a must.
Teaching Between the Ages of 2 and 3
At this point, a child already introduced to the water will start to become more comfortable. However, they cannot swim on their own, and should have a floatation device on at all times. A parent or suitable guardian should be watching them at all times, and they should not be left alone in the pool even for a second. Now is the time to encourage your child to be more physically active in the pool — playing, splashing, even swimming while assisted so that they may develop their muscles and endurance for later. Children should be taught rules for being around and in the pool at this age. Things like no running near the pool, no going in without a parent, or no going into the deep ends, etc.
Teaching at the Age of Four
Now is the time a child can begin to learn to swim for themselves and even take formal swimming classes with other children of the same age. They will still need parental oversight, but they can now submerge themselves by holding their breath. They should learn how to float on their own, and how to move around in or underwater using basic movements. Find ways to block passage to the deep ends of the pool to ensure that they stay in the shallows. Even if they can swim on their own at this point, there is still a risk of drowning.
Swimming at the Age of 6
If your child has received instruction as suggested above, then at this point they can continue to develop their swimming skills through their own practice with relative safety. It is still important to watch your children when they are in the pool at all times, but this is roughly when it should no longer be necessary for an adult to be in the water with the child.
In Case of Emergency
Always be prepared for an incident, especially around a pool or other body of water. Keeping a charged cell phone nearby is essential. If a situation happens, notify 911 and take whatever steps are appropriate to control the situation. The less time it takes to alert authorities, the faster they can reach your child and help. Familiarize yourself with pediatric urgent care facilities like Night Lite so regardless of what happens, you know exactly how you’re going to respond. Always make sure that floatation devices are available, especially when in open waters or on watercraft. And always be sure children are appropriately supervised.
Teaching your children how to swim is a process. It’s best to start early, but carefully, and with planned steps, that slowly teach your child the essentials to swimming. Safety must always be in mind before allowing a child to enter a pool or open water area.
About the author:
Daniel Vincenti is a freelance writer and family man who offers advice and insights into the joys and challenges of parenthood and life in the home.
Photograph by Tommy Wong, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.