Floating is the most important skill in the learn-to-swim process. Floating is the basis of all learn to swim and gives baby the opportunity to feel their own buoyancy. Once baby feels that fun floating sensation and that feeling of weightlessness, they will become relaxed and at home in the water.
Free floating is also great for baby’s independence. There are many different types of free floating activities that parents and teachers can practice with baby. In free floats we should start off with free float and catch. Once baby is comfortable we can further advance the skill through to free float with an independent recovery where the baby pulls up on the adult’s t-shirt or pools edge. When introducing free floating onto the adults t-shirt it is easier for the child if the adult leans back and makes a shallow ledge with their body. Here the baby can easily grip and climb/crawl up the adults chest.
Do not attempt free floating until baby is totally comfortable with conditioning and submersion.
Free Floating To Adult
Baby’s first free float should be performed in open water to parent, where the parent or teacher counts two seconds and baby floats towards them. As baby’s breath control improves the time and distance in free floats can be increased.
1) Ensure baby is in the horizontal floating hold (this allows the water to run head to toe)
2) Get baby’s attention
3) Use the “trigger words” (child’s name ready go)
4) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby underwater (remember the lift acts as a kinaesthetic trigger)
5) Catch or let baby pull up independently
6) Celebrate free float
Free Floating Between Adults
Free floating between adults is a great skill as children become more confident and relaxed in the water. Now children get double the amount of floating time as they are passed back and forth between adults. Remember if baby resits floats in any way stop and go back to conditioning and submersion.
1) Adults stand and face each other (eg 1 metre distance)
2) Catching adult get down low in the water and stretch out arms
3) Passing adult hold baby in the prone side hold (remember to look at baby in the eye)
4) Passing adult use the “trigger words” (child’s name ready go)
5) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby toward catching adult
6) Catching adult, pick up or let baby climb up independently
7) Celebrate free float
Free Floating From Ledge to Adult
When introducing this activity start with playing on a shallow ledge so baby can learn balance and stability. If baby has been preconditioned don’t worry if they self submerge. But always stay in arms reach for supervision. Always be careful not to vertically submerge baby during any floating activity. If a child is vertically submerged they may experience water up their nose – an uncomfortable feeling at any age. We want baby to be in the horizontal swimming position at all times. Start with assisting baby off the ledge to you while using the trigger words ‘ready go’. Slowly build and gradually encourage baby to attempt independent floats out to you.
Once baby starts floating to you off the ledge by his or her own free will, they may not push off correctly. As a result, baby may submerge vertically. Gently guide baby toward you and praise all attempts. To help rectify this vertical submerging problem you will have to repeat assisted submersions over and over, encouraging baby to put their face down. Never push a child’s head underwater. Children need guidance and support in the water and may get scared if their head is forced underwater.
1) Sit baby on ledge
2) Use the “trigger words”
3) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby toward you (baby will soon begin to initiate free float, encourage this)
4) Pick up or let baby climb up independently
5) Celebrate free float
Free Floating From Adult to Ledge
Before performing this activity teacher/parent must ensure that the water level is shallow enough so baby can independently keep mouth clear of the water. If the water level is too deep, do not attempt this activity as baby is likely to ingest water.
As baby becomes stronger and more mobile this free floating activity can be partnered with free float from ledge to adult. Baby will grow in confidence and independence as they practice floating back and forth.
1) Ensure water level is suitable when baby is crawling or resting on hands and knees
2) Stand about a metre from ledge.
3) Put baby in prone side hold
4) Use the “trigger words”
5) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby to ledge
6) Give baby an opportunity to climb up independently, assist if necessary
7) Celebrate free float
This article has only touched on a few different types of floating activities that you can practice with babies. Remember floating is the basis of all learn to swim and therefore the teacher should experiment with many different floating activities during their swimming lesson. Warning, if baby resits floats in any way stop and go back to conditioning and submersion. Learning to swim must be a positive experience for both parent and child.
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