Summer is finally here which, one way or another normally means swimming for all the family. Is your little one a proficient swimmer already, or will this be their first encounter with the water? If it's the later and you're a bit anxious about where to start, read on...
After a career which saw him rise to being Double Commonwealth Champion, British Record holder, Commonwealth Record holder, World Medallist, European Medallist and Olympic Finalist, Chris Cook now runs Swim Buddies swim school for 3-11 year olds helping them progress from beginner to competent!
Here he shares some top tips on introducing your own little buddy to the water.
Chris, where do we start – we want our children to be water confident?
Getting children introduced to the water is a wonderful experience for parent and child, especially if you approach it all with the right mind set, information and support. I always advise the parents at our swimming academy to link games in the bath with the work in the pool. Splashing and having fun in the bath when the little ones are just babies and toddlers can act as the start of the journey.
From a young age, encourage children to take control in the bath but If they seem to have a genuine fear, don’t force them, take small steps to help them feel more secure. Lead by example and do all of these things with them, laughing and smiling to show them that they needn’t be afraid of water. Accidentally swallowing water can be a frightening setback, so use lots of gentle encouragement and praise.
- If getting their face wet is the issue, dip a facecloth or sponge in the water and dab it on each other’s faces, so they can get used to the wet feeling. Progress to a watering can, shower spray and so on.
- You can also try bringing a cup of water to their mouth to blow bubbles, or practice blowing bubbles through a straw
- Eventually this will gather momentum until you are blowing lightweight toys across the water and you can mimic all of these in the swimming pool too
How do we transition from bath to swimming pool?
This is something we take for granted as adults, but just getting a little one regularly used to the swimming pool environment can give them a huge head start.
Swimming pools can be big noisy places so take your little one as early as possible or even better start baby water confidence classes to begin familiarising them with the water. As they get older you can begin using the techniques suggested for bathtime in the pool. Blowing bubbles, kicking their legs and using their arms to ‘scoop’ the water whilst playing various games. They will soon learn that kicking their legs propels them though the water and the harder the kicking the faster they go!
Family play or structured lessons, at what age is it beneficial to start?
At the very early stages it’s about things being fun and the little ones exploring through play, curiosity and adventure. The question of ‘When should I start swimming lessons?’ comes up all of the time and there is no hard and fast rule on this one.
One thing we’ve learnt as an academy is that there is a huge difference between age and maturity, so when thinking about swimming lessons (typically around 4 years), don’t be disheartened if your child isn’t ready for structured lessons. A child’s readiness to learn can depend on many factors, therefore there is a balance to be struck between your child being ready to take instruction and finding the right swim academy for your child’s preferred learning style.
How long will it take for my child to learn to swim?
Every child is different and therefore progress at different speeds. One of the deciding factors is usually the frequency they go swimming. The more they go, the quicker they will learn.
Once they do start on their swim path, my advice is to see it as a journey, because your child can learn so much more than just the swimming skills, they learn to preserve, strive, achieve, check through milestones and collect certificates and this should be a challenge with all the things that a challenge brings – the ups and the downs, the disappointments and the surpassing expectations etc…. seeing the journey through to the end is hugely rewarding and can teach your child skills they can take into any of life’s endeavours, I see it with the swimmers in our academy every week – sport changes lives!
For more information on SwimBuddies Junior Swimming Academy classes, please visit: http://www.swimbuddies.co.uk