Many parents around the world have taken up the challenge to teach their own children to swim. This could be for a number of reasons eg, the cost of lessons, limited access to swim schools, unsuitable programs for the family’s needs and even the behavioural or learning limitations of their child. While it can be a challenging to teach your own child to swim, the good news is that we do have some advice for parents so they can plan and deliver great swimming lessons.
Plan the lesson
Before you go to the pool make sure you are prepared with the swimming skills and drills you want to work on. The learn to swim process for any stroke should follow the progressive steps of, water familiarisation, breath control, submersion, floating, propulsion and learning to breathe. Water safety skills will underpin all of these principals. Floating is the basis of all learn to swim so spend lots of time perfecting this step.
It’s important that you set boundaries with your child so that they know what you expect. It’s a good idea to write a list of rules. This can be done together if your child is old enough. Establishing guidelines like walking around the pool, entering the pool safely, never swimming alone and reading pool signage is a great place to start.
Set a routine and be consistent
Children love routine and like to know what is going to happen. This is particularly important for timid or scared beginners as it helps them feel safe and in control. Having a specific start, middle and end to the swimming lesson will also help maintain their focus and concentration.
Alternate between exploration and structured learning
Play and exploration is very important for children’s learning. Exploration will teach children their limitations and boundaries in the water. Alternate between exploration and structured learning e.g. after they complete 5 floats they can then choose a type of float that they want to do. This will help to keep them on track while giving them the freedom to explore.
Circuits can help to maintain children’s interest in the swimming lesson. Circuits where you move from one activity to another feel less structured to the child. Make sure that you allocate plenty of time to the circuit so that your child has time to master the swimming skills.
Reward good behaviour
Everyone feels good when they are told they are doing a good job. This makes you want to persevere and try harder. You can use either verbal praise or physical rewards to complement the swimming lesson. Remember high fives, thumbs ups, a kiss or a cuddle will go a long way.
Make sure that you are realistic with your expectations and consider your child’s development. A two year old is going to have a different attention span than a 7 year old. Remember to keep instructions simple, clear and follow all instructions with a visual demonstration.
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