From around 18 months of age children will love to explore the water by diving to the bottom and picking up rings. This activity is great for your child’s spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. If your child does not have good breath control or is not totally comfortable with free-floating and independent swimming do not introduce this skill. Continue to practice the prerequisite skills of, breath control, submersion, free-floating, propulsion and turning. Be patient and soon your child will be ready to freely explore the underwater world.
When teaching this skill it is important to do so progressively. This requires us to build slowly towards deep dives to the bottom of the pool. Once the child is confident then it becomes a game to dive, retrieve the ring and swim back to mum, dad or a shallow ledge.
Children need to first get used to the idea of picking up rings. This should be done in shallow water where the child can do so independently. In this instance, the child is initiating his or her own submersions and therefore becomes totally comfortable with the activity. This activity is great for building hand-eye coordination and increasing breath control.
To further advance the skill, parents or teachers can practice diving for rings in shallow water in pool lessons. In the initial stages, it is best to submerge with the child. By submerging with the child we make them feel comfortable and secure. At 18 months of age children are still learning hand-eye coordination and therefore it may be difficult for the child to pick up the ring. It is a good idea to use larger toys to make the activity easier for the child. As the child grows with age and experience the activity will be more easily mastered.
Deep water diving requires the skill to be broken down even further. Remember, all good teaching should be progressive. In the initial stages, the parent and child can submerge together where the parent picks up the ring. The parent can also use the toy for distraction once they return to the surface. The next progressive teaching step is to, assist the child down and assist the child up. Here we encourage the child to pick up the toy but we do not let go of the child. By assisting the child we allow them to feel safe and secure. With practice, the child will become more relaxed.
At this age, many children still require assistance down, however, once they are confident we can give them the freedom to return to the surface independently. The child’s natural buoyancy will return them safely to the surface. The child’s increased mobility and breath control means that they will become comfortable swimming back to the teacher or parent. As you practice this skill the child will learn through self-exploration. Remember always use your trigger words “ready go” before submerging the child. We do not want to frighten the child so be in tune with their body language. If the child resists by arching their back, crying, or any other method, stop immediately. Go back to the beginning and revise picking up rings in shallow water. Learning to swim should be fun for both parent and child.