Thursday, September 5, 2013


(Since I did such a great job in May, ha!)
I'm starting with Day 3: Unsolicited Advice.
I spent my fair share of time sitting on the side of an 18 inch baby pool this summer.  While there I got to watch parents and their kids navigate the joy of swimming.  As a former swimmer (almost every day of my life from 8-18), lifeguard (3 years in high school at an indoor pool = year round) and swim coach (my sister and I were co-head coaches of our neighborhood team when we were 18 and 19 and our team grew from about 70 to nearly 130 kids in the 3 years we coached) I feel qualified to give some advice on how to teach kids how to swim.
So here we go:
  1. Don't make your kid spend every moment in some sort of floatation device.  The first part of learning to swim is learning to float and it sure is hard to learn when you are strapped into or stuck in a tube.  Buoyancy takes time and it feels a little weird, but kids need to experience floating on their own.  Also, telling them they can't swim without it will cause dependency.  (Yes, I know they probably can't swim without it, but look at number two.)
  2. Watch your kids like it is your job while you are around water.  BECAUSE IT IS!  I don't care if there is a lifeguard or another parent around, be aware.  There is nothing worse than having your child drown because of negligence.  Also, it is so super hard to erase that scary memory if your child has a near drowning, for you and your child.  The last time I was at the pool there was a mom there with a 3-4 year old and an 18 month old.  Her son older son made it out of the gated baby pool area to the big pool by himself and was standing near the steps for almost 5 minutes before she realized he was gone.  She also was not one of the 6 moms sitting on the edge of the pool and her 18 month old was pulled up out of the pool more than 4 times by other moms.  If your child can't stand up when they fall in shallow water you shouldn't be more than an arm's length away and your child shouldn't be in the water without you if they can't swim on their own.  (And I mean without a floatation device on their own.)
  3. Watch your reactions.  Your child goes under, you're close by so they aren't under long... celebrate!  Tell them how great they did and how awesome it is that they got their face wet and went underwater.  Even if you have to take deep breaths to control your racing heart.  Little people learn by watching us.  If you act scared that they were under water, they're going to be scared to go under.
  4. Teach your toddlers how to get out of the pool.  Make them climb up the ladder or out of the side of the pool. 
  5. Make sure your child knows the expectations and rules to follow while you are around water.  Two good basics that are non-negotiable:
    • Don't get in the water until I get in. 
    • Always give a signal for jumping in also.  (Wait until I say 3.  1, 2, 3...)
Most of all have fun with your kids around the water.  If you love it (or you fake it), they will too!