It might be a great idea for your kids to cool off on a hot day by jumping straight into a pool. But taking just a few precautions can make it a safe swimming experience where nobody gets hurt.
Yes, it can be quite stressful for a parent when your kid learns how to swim for the first time. You worry if your kid will be open to the idea of getting into a large pool of water. And if they do like it, you worry about their safety inside the pool. What if he slips and nobody notices?
These are some of the most common fears of first-time parents, and sometimes these fears can rub off on the child. The worries and fears do not end there: young children do not have a realistic sense of danger, and drowning is often quick and silent.
According to a study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children between the ages of one and four are most vulnerable to unintentional drowning. Also, the numbers increase as more families choose to swim in unsafe portable pools, their own swimming pools or condo pools.
So it cannot hurt to keep an eye on your kid while he is in the pool. In fact, whether it is a pool in your yard or a public pool, it’s always best that an adult supervise the kids at all times.
This means you need to stop talking on your phone, checking your social media, reading a book or even chatting with neighbours. As an adult, you must be mindful and present when kids are inside the pool.
But worry not. It’s amazing how quickly kids take to water, especially if you enrol them in classes when they are young – even as early as five months.
We will look at some of the things to bear in mind when your kid begins swimming. In addition, we shall also explore the instructions you need to give them.
An interesting way to encourage safe swimming and familiarise babies with water is to slowly pour it on their face and head. (Image source: Pixabay)
Safe swimming: Preparing for your child’s first swim lesson
In order to prepare your kid for his first swimming lesson, you have to keep a few crucial points in mind. Let’s explore them briefly.
1. You should know what to expect
Ideally, in a swimming lesson for infants aged between six months and two years, a parent must be present. You will not just be a bystander but a participant, swimming with your little one.
At this age, you will help your baby get familiar with water. You will also help him gain confidence in the water through basic movement games. In addition, he will also learn basic swimming skills as well as how to become independent in water.
On the other hand, if your kid is over two or three years of age, he will swim without you. However, an instructor should be present at all times. In fact, at this age, the instructor can teach your bub swimming strokes as well as how to tread water.
2. Make it all fun and games
A swimming lesson shouldn’t feel like school. You should try to make it fun starting from day one.
It all starts before you step into the pool. Begin by making bath time a fun activity. You can play games and even sing songs together in the tub.
Add some toys in the bath so your kid enjoys his time inside the bathtub. Most importantly, do not worry about the mess. Let your kids splash around and enjoy.
An interesting way to familiarise them with water is to slowly pour it on their face and head. This allows children to get used to water, and it also prepares them for submersions during the lessons.
3. Tell your kids what they should expect
Once you are prepared, you can get your kids ready for their first swimming lesson. If your kid is old enough to understand, then you can tell them exactly what’ll happen during the lesson.
Before anything else, you can teach them about safe swimming. Familiarise them with water and teach them about the skills they will learn. You can also highlight all the fun they’ll have during the actual swimming lesson.
It’s always best to be honest, especially if you know your child is scared of water. You don’t want a showdown at the lesson.
4. Chat with the instructors
Always make sure to let the instructor know what you expect from the lesson and share any fears your child might have. Let them know how your child feels about the lesson.
You can even give the instructor pointers about your child’s personality so it will be easier for the instructor to teach him.
Most instructors already know how to work with nervous kids. So they just need some background on the child, and they can immediately put your child at ease.
5. Safe swimming also means a safe swimsuit
Let your child pick his own swimsuit. This is a great way to boost his morale and keep him interested in swimming lessons. You will be amazed at what this can do to lift his spirits.
Also while choosing the swimsuit, make sure it fits your little one just perfectly.
One that is too loose or too tight can make it difficult for your little one to safely swim. It can also make him feel uncomfortable. While you’re at it, purchase goggles and a cap.
6. Keep his meal timings in mind
Make sure that your kid is not too full or running on empty when he goes for his lesson. Both can be extremely harmful.
Make sure he eats an hour before you both head to the pool. And do not let him swim on an empty stomach either. With no energy to swim, he will not have a great experience.
If your baby is below the age of two, make sure to remain standing so you can support him as he learns to swim. (Image source: Pixabay)
Safe swimming: Safety measures while in the pool
With pre-swimming lesson preparation done, you can move on to being cautious while in the pool. These are measures you need to take when your baby is inside the pool.
1. Protect your babies with a swim nappy
For nappy-wearing infants between the ages of six months and two years, swim-diapers are a must. These can prevent any accidents inside the pool.
You shouldn’t assume that babies won’t poo or pee just because they are in the water. If they want to go, they will. Nothing can stop them! So be prepared.
2. Be close to your baby
If your baby is below the age of two, you will need to be by his side in the pool. Make sure to remain standing so you can support him as he learns to swim.
Also, if you are standing, he can see you and will enjoy his lesson knowing that his safety blanket is with him. You can even use a float so you can stand easily with him in your arms. Hold onto your little one at all times and keep smiling to encourage him.
3. Encourage him and be positive
You must remain positive and encourage your child as he learns his first strokes. Tell him how well he is doing, and always be encouraging.
Make sure to keep your body language positive towards your child. You can give him a thumbs up and clap if he does well.
4. Praise his efforts
In school or at home, you will notice a huge difference if you praise your kids for their good work. Apply the same principle in the swimming pool. Encourage him and praise his efforts to raise his confidence.
When you do this, his spirits will remain high. So no matter how slowly he progresses, with your encouragement, he will tread the right path.
Your job doesn’t end when the lesson is over. In fact, more important work awaits you after that.
Safe swimming: What to do after the lesson
Here are a few crucial things you will have to do once your bub is through with his first few swimming lessons.
1. Quickly wrap them up
As soon as the lesson is over, be ready with a towel so you can quickly wrap them up. Also keep their dry clothes ready so once they are towel-dried, you can immediately clothe them.
Being quick in doing this can protect your kids from exposure to wind and potentially from a cold or fever. If you’re also wet, come out first, dry yourself with a towel while remaining close to your bub, and then dry him.
2. Check in with him
Once you’re done drying him and dressing him up, make sure to ask him what he thought of the lesson. “Did you enjoy it? Should we come back again later next week? Did you like your teacher?” are some questions you can ask him.
Also, ask him about the problems he faced during the lesson. Try to talk to him to get honest replies from him. If he is old enough to understand, he might just agree to come back to make you happy.
With bigger kids, ask them if their swimming instructor kept a close eye on them, or left them to their own devices. We repeat: it takes just a few seconds for tragedy to strike.
If you have a pool at your home, keep it – and the surrounding area – clean and free from clutter to create a safe swimming environment. (Image source: Pixabay)
3. Practice patiently with your kid
If your kid shows reluctance to come back to the class, reason with him and encourage him. But most importantly, do it all patiently. Because the fact is that eventually all kids love water, and yours will too.
Stick to the lessons and be encouraging. Ideally, children should attend swimming lessons once a week when they young. This helps them overcome their fear of water. It also encourages them to become more independent.
To encourage them to hone their skills, take them swimming more than once a week if they want to.
If you have a pool in your home, encourage them to practice their moves. This will help them get better at swimming.
4. Always supervise
Just because you bought a portable pool at home, it doesn’t mean your kids do not need supervising. If anything, you need to be extra vigilant because there is no swimming instructor to safeguard them from drowning.
For infants as young as six months to two years, its best to keep going to professional classes to practice safe swimming. But if your kid is older, you can buy a portable pool. But always be sure to be present when they go swimming.
Similarly, if you have a swimming pool at home, follow the same safety measures. Always keep a close eye on your kids and make sure they have a float with them at all times, even if they know how to swim.
Safe swimming: Pool safety rules you must know
Sometimes in their excitement, kids jump, splash or lean onto one side of the portable pool.
Without proper pool safety measures in place, all this fun can turn into a disaster. So make sure you keep these safety measures in mind.
- Fence the pool based on its height. If your pool is, for instance, four feet, place a fence of the same height on all four sides of the pool. This can prevent kids from drowning. The fence should also have a self-latching and opening mechanism.
- Keep the pool as well as the surrounding area clean and free from clutter. Make sure to remove extra toys from the pool so that your kids don’t fall into it when they try to retrieve the toys.
- Put away the ladders that give access to the pool. This will keep children from entering the pool unsupervised. If the pool is for kiddies, make sure you wrap it up and keep it out of their reach.
- Be persistent and establish pool rules in the house. Allow children to use the pool only when you are around. Make sure they obey ‘no diving’ rules. And instruct them to shower and use the bathroom before they enter the pool.
- If your kid is going to his friend’s place to use their pool, speak to his parents and make sure that an adult will be present to supervise the kids. Give you child a float or a tyre so he is protected.
- In Singapore, many parents take their kids to condominium pools. Usually most of these have their own set of safety measures in place. But ultimately the safety of your child is your responsibility. Never take your eyes off them, even for a minute.
Remember that swimming is a wonderful activity for children. Not only are they learning a new life skill, but it also helps them exercise and be fit.
Plus, safe swimming with necessary safety measures in place encourages independence, and most importantly, it allows them to have fun at the same time.
Sources: Tanyastadpoles, CDC, Livescience
Also read: 9 safe ways to take your baby swimming