We work hard with the young swimmers AND THEIR PARENTS all year long at our swim school. Often at this time of year, we see the kids coming back into the pool with some bad habits. MMMM, we wonder, where did they learn that? SO in an effort to keep those swimming skills up when the weather is warm and to give our parents some hints on what to do at home, we are offering up our Top Ten Tips for Home!
- Headed for the backyard pool? Give the kids time to warm up and have fun and then work on their swimming skills. Ten minutes of “teaching” is enough – you’ll be surprised what a big difference that will make.
- Incorporate the 1, 2, 3’s of counting to invite the swimmers into your pool. DO NOT let them run and jump without an invitation. They have to understand they need permission to enter the pool or leave the wall or the steps.
- Let the children play on the steps. Be nearby BUT if their heads goes under or if they step off and are not able to swim …. calmly guide them back to the steps or to the wall. Do not be dramatic with your assistance. If they are capable, give them a few seconds to work out their problem for themselves. This is a chance for them to learn to trust their buoyancy and receive the reward of getting to the surface and back to the steps or wall.
- Encourage underwater exploration. Research tells us that the more comfortable a child is under water, the more relaxed a swimmer they become. So when your swimmer pushes off the wall or steps to you … Let them swim for 0ne one-thousand, two one-thousand and pick them up or roll them over at three one-thousand. Play underwater games. Let them retrieve rings from the top step, then a lower step then the bottom of the pool.
- Do not put your swimmer in floaties. They will ruin our goals of teaching your child to swim with their head down and their bottoms up! Floaties allow them to paddle about, head above water and destroy any sense of balance and trust for the water that we have been working so hard to achieve. If you are boating on a lake – yes they need life jackets! If you are swimming in a pool – they need supervision, not floaties!
- More than one non-swimmer in the pool with you? Try keeping the one that you are not working with holding onto your back. That way you know where he/she is at all times.
- Resist the temptation to have your swimmer jump off the wall to you and you catching them above the water. When they jump in, let them go under the water. There must be a consequence for stepping off a step or the edge. They have to learn to turn and grab a wall, swim back to the steps, or roll over and float. Those are their 3 choices to be safe – not being rescued by mom or dad! This takes time, repetition and patience! It is fine to invite them in and let them go under and surface on their own, then pick them up. When they jump into the pool and you catch them above the water you are creating a false sense of security and over-confidence.
- When trying to work with them to roll over and float, give them a brief chance to initiate the roll over. Let the child swim for a few seconds off the wall or step then Yell “roll over” first (you might be surprised on that day when they really do it without your help), then help them roll over and THEN pick them up. Be consistent – they will eventually roll over by themselves and you will have a safe swimmer. Let the water do the work – just guide them as you roll them over! You are not just teaching your children, you are training them! Through repetition! If you wait a few seconds after them come off the wall to initiate the rollover, they will appreciate the breath they receive when the roll over.
- Some students will swim safely for their teacher and then “forget” when they get home. We focus on giving the students confidence. Give them time to warm-up. We practice streamlines and unders and bobs on the wall or even kicking on a kickboard before we ask the child to swim any type of distance. When you are swimming with them at home – if they are a jellyfish or higher – don’t rescue them too quickly. If they can swim and roll over here they can do it at home. Try yelling “roll over” before you rescue them and you might be pleasantly surprised when they do!
- Finally have a great summer in your home or community pool and always practice the Safer 3’s of:
Safer Water Lock your gates and secure your pools
Safer Kids Keep working on their learn to swim skills
Safer Response Always have a designated water watcher and phone on your pool deck