Advice from Aquanat on how to practise swimming skills with your little one.
1. Find Time
Find time, as many times a week possible, to be with your child in the water and practice the skills learned during your swimming lessons.
Make it a special time together with your child, a time during which your phone as well as other commitments are put to rest so they don’t get in your way of being present, attuned, and responsive.
2. It's All About Play!
There’s no need to teach your child to swim, instead, allow them to play and test their own abilities in a spontaneous creative way.
This time together is as much for you as it is for them. Find joy together splashing, making funny noises and blowing bubbles!
3. Keep A Watchful Eye
Kids always need to be supervised around water, and especially with our more fearless children!
While we don't like to think about it, things can go wrong in seconds, so keep a very watchful eye even if they are quite strong little dolphins.
Accidents DO happen and often in moments where parents are not alert and paying attention to water safety.
4. Throw Out Those Floatation Devices
Do not use floatation devices! - Please, please, please!!!
Floaties force your child’s body to be in a position that is counter productive to naturally moving in the water with real swimming skills.
Despite what some brands state, these products aren’t safe but provide a false sense of security for the parents.
5. Test The Water (Literally!)
Whichever pool you’re using needs to be tested before your child dives in - especially babies and infants whose eyes and skin are most sensitive to changes.
There are a few ways to check if the pool is suitable for your child:
~ Ask the pool owner how they sanitize the water.
~ Examine the colour of the water. Murky/cloudy water may mean the water is contaminated, and perhaps the sanitation system isn’t working properly.
~ Test the water yourself: Is the water kind on your eyes? Does it have a strong smell? Put your face under the water and open your eyes for a few seconds to see how it feels and how it might feel for your little one.
If the water is aggressive avoid submerging your baby, and give your child goggles to enjoy going under the water with.
If your child puts their eyes in accidently it's not the end of the world but we also don’t want their eyes to become sore. Above all we don’t want our children to develop a belief that water is an unpleasant environment that you should avoid putting your eyes in or that they only ever need to use goggles in water.
6. Learn to Love the Ocean
The ocean is such a big part of our Australian coastal lives.
Sea salt is great for the skin, a bit of adventure is great for the soul. Another plus to sea swimming is we know it is well sanitised – with sea salt! ;-)
Salt water can feel uncomfortable to little eyes. Here, every child is different though. Some children will have no problem running in and diving with their eyes open.
The slight burning of the sea salt is no match for the fun and adrenaline rush that comes from diving into foaming waves!
For other children who are not quite sure about water yet take a gentler approach. Splash in the shallows, dip toes and feet in or let them hold onto your body and float gently with you.
Babies are born with a clean slate, they have no opinion on ocean water. If you love the sea and share that love with your baby in an attuned way, most chances, your baby will adopt this love themselves. What a gift to give your child!
7. Hot or Cold?
Most outdoor pools in summer (as well as most natural water sources such as the ocean) are much cooler than the hydrotherapy indoor pool that your child is accustomed to during their swimming lessons.
The first time you take your child to a cooler water source, a pool or the ocean, let them put their feet in the water first and watch their reaction. Watch how they respond to it and if they show pleasure or excitement, then follow by letting them introduce other parts of their body to the water while continuing to monitor their reactions.
A pleasant temperature is usually around 27C-28C for most. Anything below that may however present different reactions with different babies...
Every child is different.
It's up to your to notice their signals.
Shivering, blue lips and crying indicate that your baby needs to be taken out of the cold water and warm their body.
Some babies will giggle with joy while shivering and while their body is adjusting to a new temperature. Yet, if the shivering didn’t stop after 5 minutes, then it’s time to take a break!
"...as she was so happy in the water and didn’t signal any feeling of discomfort, I just looked at my baby with wonder, while she shattered everything I thought I knew about babies..." Click here to read more about Aquanat owner Anat's own parenting journey and how it helped shape her approach to teaching.
8. Sun, Sun, Sun
Ideally your child absorbs a little sunshine daily as this is one of the best ways to get vitamin D.
Under our harsh Western Australian sun and high UV levels, we need to be careful to protect that baby skin!
The best way to gain the benefits of sunshine, while protecting the skin, is to expose any skin in a gradual way, starting with 5 minutes on their first day and building it up slowly over time. Once again, every child's skin is different so pay close attention and do not overexpose your child and risk sunburn.
The best time to expose the skin and eyes to the sun is usually before 10am and after 4pm. During times when the sun is stronger and UV levels are high, they should wear protective light clothing, including a wide angle hat, and sunglasses.
UV can still penetrate through clothes and materials as well as reflects through bright surfaces and sand. So, keep monitoring their skin, and remember they won’t always know when it’s too much themselves.
9. Chat About Swimming
Want to keep your child interested in swimming and excited about starting lessons again in the new year?
Then talk to them about what swimming is like for them. How does it feel? What do they love about water?
You might be surprised at what you can learn about how your child experiences the water. These conversations can be as enlightening as watching them learn to swim.
10. Most Importantly Relax...
This doesn't just apply to when you are in the water with your child.
At Aquanat, we believe that the parent's experience of swimming and the water impacts the child. So take deep breaths, try and see swimming through the eyes of your child - with lightness and joy.
Do what you can and be gentle with yourself. If your children only make it into the water a handful of times over the summer that's fine! Make it fun. Love every minute of your child's swimming journey.