Take 30 Minutes And Swim With Your Kids

One of the things I love best about pools and summer is that it’s an incredibly easy way for parents to spend time with their children, doing something fun, productive and healthy. Time even seems to go faster when you spend it playing in the water with your children. Often I hear comments such as “we were in for three hours yesterday” or “I couldn’t get my kids to come out of the pool”.

What is also true is the more time you spend simply playing in the water with your children, the faster their skills improve and the sooner they grow into confident, water safe children.

Here are some tips that inadvertently help your children practice their skills while playing games with you and serve as terrific ways for you to bond with your children.

Tip #1 – No Agenda Necessary

This is a time to take cues from your child. If they seem excited to splash around, jump in, swim on your shoulders and show you what they know, definitely go with it and encourage them, even try to get them to jump a little farther out, glide or swim to you a little more than usual (but if they seem uncomfortable and resist, its time to back of a bit) but if your child simply wants to hang out on the steps or cling to a floatation raft and talk to you, encourage that as well. Quiet time can be equally valuable and in those instances, you can ask questions that will generate some insight such as “what do you love most about the water/swimming/pools/summer/etc…” or even “how do you feel about swimming in the deep end, going in the ocean, etc…”

Tip #2 – Counting Works

One of the best ways I have found to encourage children to try new things is to put a quantifying number on it which sets parameters immediately and allows the child to feel as if they are somewhat in control; such as we’re going to blow bubbles for three seconds, we’re going to put our face in for two seconds, you only have to glide to me with your face in for four seconds and so on. And then I count out loud – loud enough so they can hear me even if their face is in the water.

You can have fun with your child by having mini-competitions with this. Have your child count for you while you perform the skill and then you do the same. Your goal is to try and do the skill for as long as you can while giving your child only between 1-4 seconds to complete the skill. Make sure you high five every time they do it.

Tip #3 – Don’t Jump Ahead

If your child is showing you a particular skill, praise them and ask them to do it again. Don’t however, ask them to up the ante with additional skills. Example being your child shows you how they can kick their feet while lying on the steps, what you don’t want to do is say “that’s great, now can you do it with your face in blowing bubbles?” If they are excited to show you something, focus only on what they are doing that moment. Don’t jump ahead thinking that if you ask them to do more, they will. Mostly they resist and it squelches their excitement for the original task.

If your child invites you to instruct them such as “what do you want me to show you?” then you can open it up with something like “how about…” and see what their response is.

Tip #4 You’re Not The Teacher

This can be frustrating for parents who see their children progressing with the instructor but the child won’t do any of the skills with the parents, claiming that they can only swim with their teacher. This is a very normal process and until the child makes the connection that they can actually swim with anyone, anytime, it is their personal defense mechanism that keeps them from transferring skills from one person to another.

Don’t push it. Enjoy whatever your child wants to do with you and in fairly short order, they will come to figure out that mom and dad make equally good swim partners. In the meantime, play a lot of games, use toys such as diving sticks or torpedoes as a fun distraction and don’t focus too long on one particular thing. Often, just by relaxing and letting go of any goals, your child will be more inclined to test the water (pun intended)

Tip #5 You’re Not In It To Win It

Children playing in the pool rarely want to swim laps. Most prefer to jump into the pool about a thousand times, sit on large floatation devices, use water guns, splash each other in the face, pretend to be deep sea divers, have tea parties and see how long it takes for Doritos to get soggy in the water.

Swimming laps is something kids do when an instructor or coach is standing on the side of the pool telling them what to do. Sometimes older kids do like to race and that will hold their attention for a few minutes but don’t despair if all your kids want to do is “hang out” and that all that good money you spent on making sure they swim freestyle like Michael Phelps has surely gone to waste – I assure you it hasn’t.

In fact, swimming is one of the few sports that is better suited to older children. As a competitive sport, it is ideal to start up after your child has turned ten, eleven, even twelve. Starting to push them towards swim teams – even if they seem to love it- too early, will result in burnout.

Remember anything you love, your kids want to love too. If you enjoy the water and being in it, they’ll pick up on that and it will increase the likelihood their water safe existence will come that much sooner.

By Lisa Cook

Lisa Cook is the CEO and founder of KidSwim, a premier developmental swim school in the Los Angeles area. For more tips on water safety, or to inquire about swim lessons, please visit www.KidSwim.biz.