Teaching a very young child to swim can be extremely challenging. Toddlers often develop totally irrational fears – they’re learning how to control and manipulate their environment and the most effective way they can do this is by causing a big fuss 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. The trick is to get the child familiarised with 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 have a little known and not very well understood reflex. When you blow on their face they take a small breath in. These are the steps to put this to use:
- Hold you child in on arm with them facing you.
- Count down from 3 out loud and then gently blow on their face
- When you see them inhale (, make sure they do.)
- 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 not be choking or swallowing any water.
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 should be much more receptive and manageable in the pool.