Learn to Swim on Vacation: Tips for Parents

Family vacations are one of the best ways to teach your child to swim. Not only can non swimmers learn quickly but all swimmers can fast track their progress. Consistency and frequency is the key in learning to swim and therefore holidays create the perfect opportunity to learn vital swimming and water safety skills. Unfortunately many parents are unaware of what to do and how they can help their child learn to swim. But it’s not difficult and you will be amazed with the results. Follow these simple tips to build your child’s confidence and capabilities in the water.

Swim together

I know you’re on vacation but don’t just sit on the sidelines. Take this opportunity to get in the water and play with your child. This one on one time is perfect for family bonding. Swimming is one of the only activities that can literally eliminate all distractions. Particularly with today’s busy lifestyle where work can even follow you on vacation with the invent of the brilliant smart phone. So take the opportunity to model fun, fitness, health and safety. I can guarantee that there will be family smiles all round.

Avoid equipment

There is no need for you to use any floatations devices on your child (water wings, life jackets, floaties). The number one thing to remember is that floating is the basis of all learn to swim. Children need to learn their own buoyancy in the water to relax. If children master independent front and back floating you’ll find that their future propulsive movements (kicks, pulls and paddles) are much more relaxed and efficient in moving them easily through the water.  Floatation devices virtually miss the first and most important step in the learn to swim process. They put children in the incorrect swimming position and encourage them to use propulsive actions before they are physically ready. So remember floating is the basis of all learn to swim.

Encourage independence

It’s important that you encourage children to do things for themselves under your encouragement and supervision. Teach them to move independently around the pool eg. How to get in and out of the pool, monkey climb  around the side of the pool with their hands, walk or jump in shallow water, recover to a standing position, lay on their tummy and crocodile along shallow water using their arms to pull while their legs float behind. Remember shallow water is fantastic to help timid beginners feel secure and remain in control of their learning. When children are ready to venture into the deep water avoid over handling them. In fact you won’t need to hold on to them at all because they will hold on to you while being supported by the buoyancy of the water. So encourage them to give you a soft cuddle, sink down low in the water and lean back to make a shallow ledge with your body. When you return to the shallow water position your body in a way so that your child can independently climb out of the pool. This might sound basic but this is a vital stage in the learn to swim process. Many children are confident in the water but have no idea of their capabilities. For example many will jump into the water on their own but have no idea how to recover. They have been conditioned to the fact that an adult will pick them up. This type of behaviour is very dangers in the absence of adult supervision.

Build skills slowly

Go slow and follow your child’s lead. Kids love using their imaginations so become sea creatures and have adventures together. As you play games, think about progressively and slowing building skills including breath control (holding the breath before blowing bubbles), submersion (going underwater together), floating (on the front and back) and finally introducing propulsion (kicks, pulls and paddles). A big question people ask is why not teach babies and children to blow bubbles. The simple answer is as soon we blow out bubbles we need to take a breath. Therefore if they don’t have good breath control they will drink the water and even get water up their nose. So first try to extend breath control from the count of 5 up to 10 by pouring water over the face and self submersions before encouraging bubbles. Often the hardest part will be getting children to put their face in the water. Lots of parental demonstrations and fun games will help to achieve this. Never force or hold a child’s head underwater (no matter how tempting this may be) they will become confident in their own time.

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Important Warning

Drowning is a silent killer. Children under the age of 5 and non swimmers should be supervised within arms reach. Don’t become complacent with supervision once your child can swim or if they are a bit older. It’s very easy for accidents to happen, children can hit their head or become fatigued from hours of fun in the pool. There can be lots of distractions while on vacation and it’s important that both parents know who is in change of supervision. Accidents often occur when each parent assumes the other is watching. Never drink alcohol while supervising as this can heavily impact your judgment and ability to respond in an emergency. I’m always reluctant to allow other adults to supervise my children. Instead I’d rather be in the water and have fun together.So get set for an action packed family vacation. Take the opportunity to swim for your family’s fun, fitness, health and safety. You’ll be amazing at how quickly your child’s confidence and capabilities in the water will develop. Frequent regular exposure is the key when learning to swim and holidays provide the perfect opportunity to achieve this.

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