Teaching a child to swim can enable him or her to enjoy a life filled with fun in and around the water. It is also one of the ways to prevent water-related injuries or death.
Water safety is nothing to take lightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that in 2007 there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging 10 deaths per day. An additional 496 people died from drowning and other causes in boating-related incidents. Also, more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children ages 14 and younger.
Although teaching a child to swim does not negate the necessity to carefully watch young children whenever they are around water, it does offer a measure of safety. A boy or girl who knows how to swim may be able to prevent an injury or get out of harm’s way better than one who is floundering in the water. In fact, the CDCrecommends it as one method of preventing water-related injuries.
Teaching kids to swim requires some patience and general knowledge of swimming techniques. Parents or caregivers unsure about their teaching abilities can enroll their children in swimming courses offered in their towns and cities.
Adults choosing to teach swimming on their own can try these techniques.
1. Start with teaching the child to blow bubbles out of his mouth and nose. This teaches the youngster how to prevent water from being inhaled. With only his or her mouth and nose under the water, the child can blow out and create bubbles. Once this technique is mastered, he or she may be less frightened about water going up the nose.
2. Have the child hold onto the side of the pool or a floatation device if out on a lake or in the ocean. The child should extend his or her legs outward and practice floating and kicking. Begin by kicking any which way, eventually evolving to a control kick once he or she is more comfortable.
3. The next step is to practice a few strokes. A breast stroke may offer more propulsion and buoyancy than a simple doggy paddle. Have the child stand in the water and practice pushing water out of the way in the desired stroke. Then he or she can practice doing it while floating with an adult providing some added support under the belly. With time he can learn to float and stroke at the same time.
4. Once the separate elements are mastered, it’s time to put them all together. He can choose to simply launch off of the pool bottom or kick off of the side. It’s important to stress that the kicking motion is like the accelerator of the car; it will keep him moving and also keep him afloat. Swim strokes will simply steer him and provide propulsion assistance. Knowing that each motion has its own importance will help the child remember that all are needed to swim and stay afloat.
Once the child has become comfortable swimming above the water, he or she may eventually want to learn to swim below the water, which many people find to be less tiresome and allows one to cover more ground faster. Swimming underwater employs the same techniques as above, but the child will need to be comfortable holding his or her breath for a long period of time. This can be practiced standing in the water and dunking the face or body (with supervision nearby) underwater. Don’t encourage kids to hold their nose because both hands will be needed to swim underwater. After the child has grown accustomed to holding his her breath stationary, he or she can try doing it underwater and swimming.
Swimming is an important skill to learn, one that’s both practical and fun.