Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rylee and Ryan about to jump into lessons
You know it's summer when you can hear screams and crying echoing from the home on Val Vista Drive.  Baby tantrums abound in my backyard pool this time of year. It's inevitable. 

See, I've been teaching swimming lessons here for 12 summers and another 16 years at other pools before that.  Twenty eight summers of helping toddlers grab the edge and potential swim teamers perfect their strokes.  I'm not afraid to wipe snot with my hands or have pool water spit in my face.  It's all part of the job. 

What works?  What doesn't?  While every child is different, here's what I've found about my precious baby swimmers:

Endure the crying and don't make it personal.  I once had a mother tell me that she promised her daughter I wouldn't put her head under water during class.  I wish I could teach a child how to swim across a pool without getting their face wet, but the term for that stroke is actually doggie paddle.  I'd rather have a child be upset with me for a little while so I can teach and reemphasize correct swimming and floating techniques.  Don't let it bother you as a parent when your child cries, eventually it will end.  I promise. 

*  Start lessons as early as two years old.  In my opinion, the longer you put off lessons, the harder it will be to teach your child how to swim correctly.  Five-year-old swimmers who have never had a lesson in their lives have often developed poor swimming habits, i.e. fighting their way through the water and tilting their head too high for a breath.  In contrast, two-year-old babies will pick up the strokes and floating more quickly each year, even if they hated swimming the previous year.  Start em early, it works. 

(Side note: I know there is a survival type instruction that I am not certified to teach that people swear by.  Worth looking into.)

*  Don't Panic!!!  When a little one falls off a step or let's go of an edge and is submerged and you see it -- don't jump in fully clothed if a teacher is nearby.  Alert the teacher and let her help guide the child back to the step or wall.  Number one, it teaches the child to be a little more cautious in the pool.  And number two, it provides an opportunity for child to learn from experience and practice their survival techniques. 

* Reinforce swimming at home.  Swim with your child as much as possible.  Practice floating and "big arms".  If you don't have access to a pool, work on the lesson drills in the bathtub.  Have the child teach their dolls in the water and recreate their lessons.   

* Join swim team as early as possible.  Joining a swim team is the best way to become a stronger swimmer.  It provides opportunity to perfect the four strokes and learn swimming endurance.  You can swim for the rest of your life.  Why not develop the skill today so you can really enjoy the sport!

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