“It’s all about the confidence”
– Gok Wan
…Clearly, this cat is super water confident! 🙂
I love swimming even though I can’t really swim, it’s never stopped me from going in the water and trying to. I have always told myself that when I have children, they will learn to swim. This was an essential goal for me. For the fear of them drowning and just wanting to equip them with the best skills in life, I feel like swimming is one of those things everyone should know how to do.
I took LO to many months of swimming classes with Water Babies from when he was 6 months old until he was about over a year old. They taught him survival skills like holding his breath underwater which was great. Children under three actually don’t have the physical strength yet to physically swim but they can be taught how to get themselves out of trouble should they fall in water. It’s also said the sooner to start the better when it comes to water survival skills as it’s easier to teach when their gag reflex is still strong (from birth to approx. 6 months). However, I couldn’t afford to keep us going there and stopped our swimming altogether. Sad to say, I think he’s probably forgotten all of his swimming survival skills now but I know for sure he hasn’t lost his confidence in the water, regardless of whether he can swim or not.
I recently found out from a charity called Fusion Lifestyle that they offered a mum & baby water confidence class at the new and modern Glass Mill leisure centre in Lewisham. I had planned to take LO to the class but he contracted ringworm through the summer holiday which worsened in the last few weeks as he’d been scratching it and rubbed it raw. I had to decide to withdraw him from the swim class as it hadn’t healed in time which I thought it would have. Such a bummer as I really wanted to take him and it would’ve been a perfect chance to get him back in the water.
The lucky mum and babies who attended were given a handy takeaway leaflet about water confidence. Lucky for me, Fusion Lifestyle also sent me across a copy which I thought was fantastic advice which I wanted to share with you all. 🙂
Water Confidence Tips
(extracted from the Fusion Lifestyle handout)
1. Be prepared
Before your first trip to the pool there are some handy essentials we’d recommend having ready:
- Towels for you both – a hooded towel for baby to help keep them warm after getting out the pool can be handy
- Swimming nappies – these come in both reusable and disposable varieties, so you can pick what suits your family best
- An insulated bodysuit/costume for baby – babies can get cold in the pool quickly which can affect their mood so insulated bodysuits can be a good idea
- An after swimming snack – swimming can make children hungry and can be a good reward mechanism
2. Getting their faces wet
Even confident babies can find the thought of getting their faces wet, or putting them underwater, unappealing. If your child dislikes getting their face splashed, then before you go to the swimming pool or on holiday start with simple things in the bath. If they’re a baby, gently trickle water down their face while you bathe them. Or, if they are slightly older, encourage a water-blowing contest and get your child to blow bubbles on the surface of the water and make it fun. If they don’t like getting water in their eyes then goggles are great as it’ll keep their eyes dry.
3. Encourage your child
All mums know that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to milestones and child development and it’s the same with swimming. Encourage your child to persevere and celebrate their time in the water – this will give them the confidence they need to keep going. If they are learning to swim, encourage them to compete against themselves and to measure themselves against only their own best efforts.
My favourite motto at the moment is “progression not perfection”. 🙂
4. If they are nervous help them get familiar with the water
For babies and toddlers, early swimming experiences can be hit or miss, with some children downright refusing to get in the water. The key is not to push it. If you are on holiday, it’s likely you’ll have the opportunity to try again without stressing or rushing your child. Start off by simply just sitting on the side of the pool to dipping your toes in the water. Once they get more comfortable you can then try sitting or walking in the very shallow end of the pool.
5. Do be supportive – rain or shine!
Whether your child takes one day or one year to build their confidence, keep showing them your love and support. One of your most important roles as a swimming parent is to provide emotional support during the tough times, of which there will be many.
6. Don’t pressure your child
Remember that swimming is your child’s hobby. If your child has their own reasons and own goals for participating, they will be far more motivated to do well. It is normal and healthy to want your child to excel and be as successful as possible, but parents cannot make this happen by pressuring them with expectations. Instead, just offer them that encouragement and unconditional support and guidance they need.
7. Don’t dangle carrots
Try to avoid any form of bribery. Seriously, don’t do it. It’s important to be careful of the message you send out – swimmers should swim for themselves and for the positives the sport brings. When your child does well, try to praise them for what they did well, not the outcome that they achieved. If you find that they no longer enjoy the sport, let them stop for a bit and see if they want to still carry on after a little break. If not then you will need to respect their decision and call it a day.
8. Make it fun
If you are helping your child practice swimming make it fun using games. Animal Games can be a lot of fun and can help your child to gain much needed confidence as well as having fun in the water. The more your child associates being in the water with having fun, you are on the right track!
9. Don’t push for Olympic or Paralympic glory
Maybe your child will become an Olympian one day, but for most this isn’t the case. Encourage your child to be the best they can be and to enjoy swimming, but make sure you both haven’t set the bar too high in terms of expectations. It’s great to have goals and dreams but the most important thing is to ensure that they are happy in the sport. If they are happy, the good performances will come naturally.
10. Respect the coach
Trust the coach or teacher to do their job. If you have any questions about something your child’s coach is doing or saying in the sessions, it is okay to ask but best to ask before after the swim lesson. The coach’s attention will be on the swimmers they are coaching during session times so it’s best not to distract during that time. Remember that a lot of coaching staff are giving their time voluntarily and are keen to get the best out of every one of their swimmers! 🙂
I hope you find these tips helpful. I think these ten points are great and really hit the nail on the head. If you’ve got any other tips or advice, let me know by leaving a comment below. 🙂
About Fusion Lifestyle
With 80 Fusion-run pools across the UK their dedicated ‘Swim School’ programme offers ASA-approved lessons that, under the Learn to Swim Framework, help children achieve confidence in the water.
To learn more about Fusion Lifestyle or book a free swim assessment, simply visit their website: http://www.fusion-lifestyle.com/swimschool
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NB. This post was written after reading the “Help Your Child Swim With Confidence” leaflet which was given to me by Fusion Lifestyle in aid of their water confidence campaign. All words, opinions and photos are my own.