Swimming 101

With hot summer days around the corner, pool parties, boating and other opportunities to cool off will present themselves, and having little ones who don’t know how to swim yet can be stressful. Plus, swim lessons are even more difficult to find this time of year. Don’t worry, I’m here to help! I’ve been a swim instructor for 10 years at the Bellevue Club, and this is my insider’s guide to helping your children learn the basics!


Tips for Teaching Tots

–  Don’t miss an opportunity to practice! Baths are a great place to practice blowing bubbles and getting comfortable in the water. Don’t hesitate to dump water on those little heads either. You might feel you’re doing them a favor by not getting water in their eyes, but you’re setting them back for the first step to swimming.

–  If you find yourself in the pool with your kids this summer, let them explore. If your kids aren’t swimming on their own yet, don’t put unneeded pressure on yourself and them to learn in a day. Stay within arm’s reach of them, and let them run, crawl or jump around in an area where they can stand. If you’re in a pool with stairs, this can be a great place for tots to explore.

–  Get creative! My personal favorite way to get a reluctant child to put their face in the water is to go on a “scuba adventure.” First, have them blow bubbles to “talk to the fish,” then have them dip an ear in to “hear the fish.” Lastly, have them put an eye or two in to “see the fish.” Then repeat with other sea creatures. Continue working on this until they are putting both eyes in the water comfortably.

– The best safety skill you can teach your child is to flip to their back and float. This is something you can work on at any skill level, even if they aren’t putting their face in the water yet. Hold them in a floating position and roll them on to their back. Once they get the hang of independently floating on both their front and back, it will become easier for them to flip over unassisted.


Goggles or no goggles?

–  If your child is hesitant to go underwater, goggles can help them gain the confidence to do so. However, once they are confident and are working on stroke development, be sure to have them practice without goggles so they don’t become dependent on them to swim, as this can be a safety concern.

–  If your child is comfortable putting their face in without goggles from the start, encourage it. Once they are confident, then have them wear goggles to make it easier to see where they are going.

–  There are hundreds of goggles out there to choose from. Finding the right pair can make such a difference for your child. Don’t worry about getting them the “fun ones” as these tend to leak, and your child won’t see them once they are on their face anyway. My personal favorite pair, which tends to fit every child, is the TYR Swimple Tie Dye Youth Goggles.

–  Stay away from goggles with dark lenses, as this can be a sensory overload for a child who is still trying to get used to having their face in the water.


Safety & Life Jackets

–  Always stay alert and within arm’s reach of your child when they are in or near any body of water. Even if your child isn’t in the water, one unsteady step could send them right in.

–  Kids love to jump into the pool, and it can be a great way for them to get comfortable with water in their face. However, if they are timid, they might try to grab the wall as they jump in, which can result in stitches under the chin. Make sure they know to always jump away from the wall.

–  When choosing a life jacket, it is important to check the size and weight requirements. Puddle Jumpers make a great life jacket for preschoolers. The life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved and have an adjustable safety buckle in the back that kids cannot reach themselves.

–  Putting a little one in a life jacket can assist them in feeling comfortable floating and kicking around; it can also teach them habits that can be difficult to correct. To help combat this, encourage them to splash their feet while lying on their back or belly.

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