May is the beginning of the summer season as outdoor pools open and families take trips to the lake, river, ocean or neighborhood pool. May is also National Drowning Prevention Month. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in the United States in children ages 1 to 4 years old.
The best way to prevent a drowning incident is to learn how to swim and to teach your children how to swim. In fact, National Learn to Swim Day is May 21.
Here are a 10 simple and fun things you can do to with your young children (ages 2-4) to teach them to swim:
1. Keep it fun.
The number one and most important tip for teaching your child how to swim is to keep it fun and low stress. When your child associates the water with a negative emotion, it can be extremely difficult to teach him/her how to swim.
2. Start slow.
Sit on the steps (or in a very shallow area) and play in the water. Your child will become accustomed to the water and the safe area for playing.
3. Blow bubbles.
This process is the first step to getting your child’s face wet and helping them understand how to breathe/not breathe underwater.
4. Getting entire face wet.
Some kids will have no problem with this and others will be very afraid to put their entire face/head underwater.
5. Practice kicking.
This is a basic, but very important movement in swimming and can be taught before your child is comfortable putting their face in the water. With hands on the steps and face out of the water, your child can practice kicking.
6. Picking up a submerged toy.
This can be a progressive activity — starting on the steps and once your child is comfortable, moving to the deeper areas of the pool.
7. Venturing out from the steps slowly.
Have your child hold the wall and get back to the steps. This is a very important skill because if your child falls into the water, they can grab the wall and hand-walk themselves back over to the safety of the steps or shallow area.
8. Bobbing underwater.
Teach your child how to hold their breath underwater and not breath again until they are above water. Start with one bob and as they progress add more bobs with less rest between going under.
9. Floating on the back.
You or another adult must assist with this exercise by holding your child’s head and neck and if needed using the other hand to hold up your child’s torso.
10. Glide to steps or wall.
Hold your child and tell them to make superman arms. Then push them to the steps/wall so he/she can feel what it’s like to glide in the water alone. Progress with this exercise adding kicking and doggy-paddle arm motions making sure the fingers are not balled up in a fist or fingers spread out wide.
These are truly the basic skills for learning how to be comfortable in the water and can be taught and learned at any age. The more people who know how to swim, the fewer people will drown and the more people will have fun in the water.
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