When your child is attending formal swim lessons, you might wonder what your role is in the pool at home. Should you simply play in the water or should you actually try to teach your child at home? The answer is actually a mix of both. Here are a few recommendations on how to interact with your child in the water outside of their formal swimming education, so you can be sure you’re building upon the skills they’re learning in class.
1. Take Time to Warm Up
When you want to teach your child at home, you might be tempted to get in the pool and start practicing swimming skills right away. But all good athletes know to warm up before pushing their bodies in a sport, and it’s just as important to help your child warm up before their minds and bodies are ready to practice their skills. Call to mind the first few activities you do in your swim class, and use these as a foundation. Any sort of singing paired with splashing and simple movements can help warm up the muscles and prepare your child’s body for the tougher skills. Plus, the warm-ups can often be a good deal of fun for both of you.
2. Repeat Specific Skills
So how do you teach a child to swim when you’re not a trained instructor? First, pay close attention to how your little one’s swim instructor holds and guides them during class. This will help you intentionally commit certain holds and movements to memory, so you can replicate them later at home. Next, focus on one specific skill at a time. Maybe your child worked on back floats, rollovers and kicks in class last week. This is probably too many for you to tackle at home in between classes, so you may decide to zero in on back floats during your private time together at home. Use the same verbiage as the swim instructor to keep things consistent.
Lastly, keep the environment fun and not stressful. Your child should still feel like you are mom or dad, rather than a teacher. If they visibly improve during your one-on-one session, encourage them and cheer them on. And if they seem to remain at the same skill level (or even regress a little), don’t worry. Children can act differently in different atmospheres; the important thing is that you’re being intentional about repeating the same skills they are learning in class.
3. Continue Playtime
Once you’ve chosen a particular skill to pay attention to, make sure to only repeat this skill as long as your child seems engaged. That’s when the real learning happens. After they seem to lose interest in this skill, you can shift gears to play time. Even though it might not seem like it, children are still learning when they play in the water under the supervision of a caring adult. Allow them to safely explore how their body feels in water, how different movements create new sensations and even let them try new skills if they want to. Just be sure you’re right there with them, supporting them and keeping them safe throughout the fun experience. You never know; sometimes being in the comfort of their own pool without strangers watching can take just enough pressure off to allow your little swimmer to show great strides.
4. Emphasize Safety in the Water
Whether you’ve decided to work on specific swimming skills during a pool session, or just want to take your child’s lead and have fun, consistency around water safety is key. It’s always important to stick to the same safety rules at home that are followed at your swim school. This is especially crucial when your child enters the water and/or leaves a step. Make sure you’re not encouraging them to follow a toy into the water (as they could repeat this behavior if they see a toy in the pool and don’t have an adult nearby), and always have them wait for you to invite them into the pool. If your swim school has a particular method for doing this, mirror this at home. For example, you might ask your child to swim to you during swim class by saying, “one, two, three, up and under,” which gives the signal that it’s okay for them to come into the water. If that’s the case, make sure they wait for this same signal at home as well. This will ensure their safety and help them to remember that they are only allowed in the pool when an adult is with them.
Structured swimming education can be a very valuable way to teach your child to swim, but don’t discount the benefits of teaching your child at home at the same time. There’s no place like home for reinforcing the swimming skills your little one is learning in class. For more information on our swim school or if you have any questions please contact us today.