Around the world there are many theories and views on how and when you introduce your child to the pool. Many parents don’t feel confident taking their child swimming in the early stages, especially if it’s their first child so it’s normal to find out as much as you can. Introducing your child to water is like them taking their first steps or speaking their first word, it is a natural evolution of life.
Swimming is similar to walking, you would not put a child in an environment that was unsafe or one they would not be able to cope with. Their first steps normally take place in their own home, followed by a controlled environment in your garden, progressing to the park and maybe even to the local shopping centre. The approach to swimming should be exactly the same, introducing your child to water begins first at home in the bath. Naturally they would have experienced a bath from birth but this is changing the focus of the bath and ensuring that it is about play and fun, just as much as it is about washing.
Taking your child to the swimming pool is the natural progression and your choice of pool environment is undoubtedly going to make a difference to your child’s experience. No matter the age of your child, they are going to be constantly looking to you, to feel how you are in the pool, and your own experience, for example: in the case of a parent who is terrified of water and takes their child to the pool out of fear of their child drowning, will be an experience felt by the child and one potentially of panic and trepidation.
When introducing your child to water the main focus is to get them comfortable and relaxed. At this initial stage getting their face wet or dunking them under water is not the priority. Simply make sure they are warm enough. Even if you are feeling warm they may not be, so it’s advisable to keep checking. Body warmth can be aided by a neoprene baby wrap if they are under 18 months or, if older, a full body suit will help to retain body heat.
When you are in the water with your child, hold them in a way to make them feel that you are supporting them. For their first swim experience they do not need to walk, or support themselves. The first time is very much about your connection. It’s important to maintain a strong interaction by walking with your child, holding and talking to them and making them feel as comfortable as possible.
Remember, you are their safety net and if you are comfortable they will begin to be comfortable too. If your child has a favourite bath time toy or toys take them to the pool with you and you can play with them there. Again, it cannot be emphasised enough how the first experience in the pool is all about you and your relationship with your child. Keep reiterating to your child that you are there no matter what and this should help to relax them. This principle applies to every child’s first introduction to water regardless of age.
After your child has been to the pool a few times and is used to the experience and sensation, start to introduce them to the various swimming products available. There are a range of children’s swimming aids, such as arm bands and floats which are perfect to give your child that little extra confidence during their time in the water.
The most important thing is to take your time, relax and use it as a time of play more than a time of trying to get your child to swim. The more comfortable your child is in the water the more naturally their swimming skills will develop.