As the weather hots up, one of the best ways to stay cool and have fun with your toddler is to teach them how to swim. However, as many parents have tragically found out, teaching your little one to swim can have serious consequences if done incorrectly. Water safety is paramount and there are many mistakes you could end up making without realising it.
If you want to ensure your toddler stays safe and happy throughout the lessons, below you’ll discover 5 mistakes to avoid when teaching your toddler to swim.
1. Never Teach Them To Just Get Right On In
No matter how warm it is or how excited you both are, it’s important to establish a “getting into the pool routine”. That is, things you both need to do before you actually get into the water. It could be changing into a swimsuit and changing your little one into a swimming diaper. Then, applying sunscreen and maybe sitting on the pool edge for a minute or two before sliding in.
The reason this is important is because it teaches your toddler they should never just jump into the water at any time they feel like it. It also helps to have a verbal cue which tells them when it is ok to get in. They’ll learn that there are certain things which need to be done and said before they can get into the pool. This reduces the likelihood they will jump in without you – a vital safety tip that works well when you’re not always around or you have your back turned.
2. Avoid Relying On Floats And Water Wings
Floats and water wings are there for kids to use, but they can actually give your toddler a false sense of security. That’s because they can easily slip out of your child’s grasp. If they let go or if it slips, they won’t have anything to stop them going underwater. Not only does this pose an obvious risk of drowning, but it can also cause them to develop a fear of the water if they do go under unexpectedly when they felt protected.
A good alternative is to start teaching your toddler how find and swim to a ladder or step to get out if they need to. Teaching them how to climb their little hands over one another on the pool’s walls is a great way to do this.
3. Never Skip Water Safety Exercises
From the minute your little one is born, your instinct is to protect them and keep them happy and healthy. The last thing you want is to see your baby cry. So, the thought of startling them by making them go underwater for the first time can be off-putting. However, while yes it might be upsetting, it’s also an essential skill they need to learn. If you don’t teach them to go underwater, if an accident happens or they end up underwater for any reason, they aren’t going to know what to do.
The earlier you teach them to go underwater, the easier it will be. Obviously you should never just dunk them under without warning – be sure to follow the safety exercises exactly as they are given.
4. Don’t Be More Than Touching Distance Away
It may sound pretty obvious, but you should never be more than touching distance away from your little one while they’re in the water. Even if you decide to give swimming floats a chance, as mentioned earlier they can easily slip out of grasp. If you’re not there to catch your toddler, it doesn’t just increase their risk of drowning, but it also increases the risk they’ll develop a huge fear of the water.
This also means you should learn to swim yourself if you don’t know how to already.
5. Beware Of Your Own Feelings Transferring To Your Toddler
As a parent, it’s natural to worry and panic when things go wrong. If your toddler does end up unexpectedly going under the water, as difficult as it might be, try not to let your panic show. If you pull them up in a state of panic, it’s not only going to make them become even more distressed, but again they’ll likely develop a fear of the water. You’ll then struggle to convince them to go with you to the pool again.
So those are the five biggest mistakes to avoid. Being a parent is a learning curve and teaching your toddler to swim can be a lot more difficult than you might imagine. A few good tips to follow include:
- Enroll your toddler into professional swimming lessons.
- Never leave them unsupervised, even in really shallow water.
- If you have a pool at home, be sure to create a barrier for when it’s not in use.
- Don’t force them into the water, if they don’t want to swim, try again later in the week.
- Start building up water confidence at bath times.
- Choose a time to go swimming when it isn’t going to be too busy.
These are just some tips that can help make teaching your little one to swim a little easier.
Overall, swimming with your toddler can be fun and it can also really help you to bond together. You just need to make sure you follow strict water safety rules and know exactly what to avoid to keep them safe.