Taking the Plunge: Getting Little Ones to Love Water

The throughline of water safety at any age is having a positive relationship with water. Depending on age and ability, there are different tactics you can use to get a new or reluctant swimmer in the water.

It is common for infants and toddlers to love water. For littles, you can create a positive association with water using some of these methods.

  • Start with bath time! By using toys or little buckets, you can gently introduce babies to the fun of playing in water.
  • With toddlers, the bath can be a great place to try on goggles for the first time in preparation for a more structured swim program at the J or another swim school.
  • Gradually introduce your little one to water and model enjoyment. We all know how fun a kiddy pool or splash pad can be for little ones. When you do decide to take your infant or toddler to the pool, hold them close so they know they are safe. Make sure you express how fun swimming is, by smiling and showing enthusiasm.
  • Remember – little ones should wear a swim diaper in pools until they are fully potty trained.

A crucial part of a child’s swimming success is establishing a routine. This could be a combination of things including one private lesson a week combined with swimming with mom or dad at the pool once a week. You could say something like, “You’ll be in classes with Miss Molly on Sunday mornings, but you and I will play in the pool on Wednesday mornings!” Kids have lower anxiety when something is routine or regular.

Another tip for new swimmers to swim class is to let them know what to expect in class. For a child 3-4 years old, this could be their first foray into instruction from an adult other than a parent or caregiver. You could prepare your child for class by talking about the upcoming class in the week leading up, letting the child know the instructor’s name, and explaining how class might go.

This could sound something like, “You will be swimming with other kids in your class with Miss Molly on Sundays. You will each get to take turns swimming with Miss Molly. When it isn’t your turn, you can sit on the stairs with the other kids so Miss Molly will know you are safe. After you spend time learning new things, your class will end by playing with pool toys! Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

If you have or know a child that is afraid of being in the water, validate and acknowledge their fears. Introduce them to water slowly – using stairs or ramps in a large pool or dipping their feet in shallow water. It is extremely important to respect the pace of the swimmer. Any negative experience could set them back in terms of overcoming their fears. Additionally, celebrate their small successes, like sitting down in shallow water, blowing bubbles with their mouth, or putting their face in the water.

While this blog focused on getting little ones into the pool, please know that the J can help with any stage of a person’s swimming journey. Everyone should be able to experience the joy and security of knowing how to swim, and it is never too late to learn. Contact Aquatics@theJ.org for more tips or to get information about swim programs currently offered.

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