Teaching a very young child to swim can be extremely challenging. Children are often terrified of water – they’re learning how to control and manipulate their environment and the best way they can do this is by kicking and screaming if they don’t want to do something! The swimming pool is a totally foreign environment – they’re weightless, it’s noisy and feels pretty darn weird underwater,they lose contact with the ground and are continually being forced to do things they don’t want to do by you – their parent! The answer is to help the child feel at ease in the water from a very early age so that they don’t feel nervous or out of control. A confident child will learn to swim much faster than a nervous child.
So what can you do to help your baby acclimatise to water and avoid the stress that most children endure? Babies, or toddlers under a year old have a reflex action that you can use to help them feel more comfortable underwater. By breathing gently on their face they will take a small breath in. Here’s what you should do:
- Cradle your child in one arm and try to maintain eye contact.
- Count down from 3 out loud and then blow gently on their face.
- You should see them inhale (, be certain they have!)
- Submerge them very briefly just up to the top of their nose.
- As they have just inhaled their natural reaction will be to breathe out and blow bubbles. Bring them straight back out again. They will probably look a bit startled at this point but should otherwise be fine.
Over time and repetition you can increase the depth to which you are submerging them.. This technique will build water confidence and familiarity so that when they start having proper swimming lessons they will have a much easier time of it.