Q: [Toddler] How can I help my 18-month-old daughter get used to being in water before she starts attending swim classes?
A: Introducing a baby or toddler to the water can be both exciting and intimidating for any parent. Some children are fearful, while others are fearless. Here are five ways to assure your child’s introduction to swimming is safe and fun for both parent and child:
- Start with showing them how to blow bubbles and splash with their hands at bath time. One of the biggest fears for a child is to get their eyes and face wet. Using a cup of water, gently pour it over your child’s head, allowing it to fall over your child’s face.
- When entering a pool, allow your child to get comfortable. Some children will become fussy, while others will be eager to get going. Create an inviting environment by bringing their bath toys, singing songs, and encouraging them with a smile.
- Always make sure to hold your child so that they are facedown and their body is in a vertical swimming position. Using your forearm, lay your child across so that your hand is keeping their chest and head above the water, while allowing their arms and legs to be unrestricted. Show your swimmer the direction to swim by moving your arm forward vertically and carefully gliding them in the water. Using your free arm, demonstrate kicking with their legs and feet.
- Do not be afraid to dunk your child (just make sure to condition your child with a signal to prepare them). Have your child face you horizontally and place your index fingers and thumbs underneath your child’s armpits. Simply count 1, 2, 3 and gently blow on your child’s face (or take a breath) as you give them a quick dunk. By blowing in their face, your child will instinctively hold their breath upon entering the water. Make sure to cheer and celebrate your swimmer to assure them that they are fine!
- Say “NO” to life vests, floaties, and any other assisted floating devices. Though they can be helpful in keeping your child safe, children can become too dependent. When in doubt, always verbalize what you are teaching them with the proper vocabulary. Whether they are kicking, splashing, reaching, or blowing bubbles make sure to verbalize the action you are teaching.
Lisa Rachel is a certified water safety instructor, lifeguard, and aquatic fitness instructor with more than 10 years of experience. When she is not in water, she is teaching 4th grade. Instagram: @MissMoeTeaches