Swimming is a popular activity once temperatures heat up. Millions of people flock to beaches to dip their toes in the water, and scores more spend afternoons exploring the depths of backyard pools.
Upon being introduced to the water, younger children may be somewhat apprehensive, as swimming in pools or oceans can be intimidating to youngsters. Parents should exercise extreme caution when teaching kids to swim, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children under the age of 14.
Although swimming can be dangerous, experts in pediatric and adolescent medicine affirm that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning considerably.
Children whose parents swim may be eager to join mom and dad in the pool. The following are some tips for parents as they start to develop a plan to teach their kids to swim.
• Wait until the child is developmentally ready. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that parents wait until after a child’s fourth birthday to teach them how to swim. This is when children have developed enough to understand commands and have the motor skils required for swimming. At this point, parents can register children for swimming lessons with trained instructors.
• Introduce playing in the water early on. Parents should make sure their children grow accustomed to playing in the water. Many kids start to like the water around the time they become toddlers, when bathing introduces them to splashing and bobbing toys. Use these opportunities to take your child into the water, so he or she acclimates to feeling the water on his or her body and face. Kids can sit with adults on pool steps or retrieve toys from within reach. An adult always should be nearby.
• Wait before submerging kids. The American Red Cross says to wait until a child is around age three before submerging him or her under the water. Young kids can swallow a lot of water, which can be dangerous. Sputtering water also may turn a child off to swimming completely.
• Begin in calm water. The open ocean can be daunting, even to adults. So it might be better to begin swimming lessons in a calm body of water, such as a lake or pool.
• Invest in formal swimming lessons. Parental perceptions and anxieties may interfere with parents’ abilities to properly teach their children how to swim. Therefore, hire third-party professional instructors to teach kids to swim. The Red Cross can put you in touch with certified swimming instructors who also are knowledgeable in first aid. As children become more confident in the water, they can practice swimming strokes and submerging themselves for underwater swimming.