Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teaching a Child to Swim

We just finished an exciting series of swimming lessons for our four year old, Ryan. I say exciting because we tried group lessons for him last summer and he wasn't successful. Not only was he not successful, but he actually ended up with (as our new instructor put it) "a very real and intense fear of the water".  Our new teacher, Miss Ginny was very tough but also very supportive. It was a little difficult to watch at times (ok I could barely watch), but the change in him was almost immediate. Here's a very abbreviated version of some of her techniques. Also, she used some great goggles (Fins Brand) and some slip on foot kickers. There were two other things that helped him stay motivated: Sean went to every lesson and Ryan works really hard to impress Daddy and I had a goody bag on the side of the pool that he could see during every lesson. There were 8 lessons and 8 loaded goody bags. I used stuff like, M&M's, bubbles, Spiderman anything, whistles, etc. I made sure the bag wasn't transparent so he never could tell what he was getting until he earned it. Though it's hard, if they don't give all their best effort, whatever you do, stay strong and DO NOT give that goody bag! Next time, they'll try harder and be proud to earn it. And remember, keep your practice sessions light and fun and show him how happy you are with his efforts!

Step 1: Catch a Bubble
Take a big breath and don't let it out.

Step 2: Hold the Bubble and Go Under
Now take a mirror and put it on the step under water. Start by having the child just dip his face in to see himself. Keep having the child go lower until his nose touches the mirror. Then lower the mirror down a step or to a lower level so the child will have to go a bit lower to touch his nose.

Step 3: Use Your Big Kickers
Now put the fins on your child's feet and show how to do a big loose kick. With his face in the water, gently pull him along on a kick board as he uses his "Big Kickers".

Step 4: Dig Like a Doggy, Dig, Dig, Dig...
Show him how to make large arm strokes and repeat that he will "dig like a doggy, dig, dig, dig".
Assist him as he practices this and help support his body.

Step 5: Put it All Together
After he has had a lot of practice with steps 1-4 and you have praised him relentlessly, move a few feet from the top step and support him from the side as he puts all of these new techniques together. You'll want to remind him to catch a bubble, use his big kickers and dig like a doggy. As his comfort level increases, so can his starting distance.

Now Ryan is really excited about swimming. I'm so happy for him that he will really be able to enjoy the pool this summer! Of course there' s a lot more to swimming, but the above will get you started.


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