Learning to swim at an early age is needed for the physical health of a child. It develops motor skills and muscle power, makes the lungs stronger, and shortens the reaction time. Swimming is also necessary for the emotions of a child because it gives them confidence. Teaching a child to swim helps to make emotional connections between a parent and a child. If you want your child to be safe, you have to teach them to swim, because an emergency can happen anytime (McKay and McKay 10-11). To make the teaching process the best for their child, parents have to choose methods remembering the child’s age.
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Babies and toddlers should not take swimming lessons with a teacher; their skills are not good enough to learn. Such is the recommendation of The American Association of Pediatrics. But parents can teach them to stay afloat and play water games with them to make a child ready for future swimming lessons. For babies, it should be just having fun in the water. The important safety measures are: keeping the baby in arms all the time; make sure that the baby is not swallowing water; dress them in swim diapers; keep the necessary first aid things close in case an emergency happens (Eidam par. 1-3).
Toddlers can play water games in which they need to move their arms and legs, such as throwing and catching a ball and float on the water. The safety measures are: do not leave them alone because they already think they can swim; carefully check air-filled toys and swimsuits; do not leave the toys in water after swimming because children can try to take them toys and drown (Eidam par. 4-5).
It is a problem that many parents of toddlers think they should protect their children, and because of that they always control their children too much during swimming lessons. But it is much safer to develop their ability to swimming then to rely on parental control. A child has to develop confidence, and the earlier they will be able to do without parents, the better because a parent can get distracted and that will be fatal (Moran and Stanley 140-141).
At the age of 4-5 years, children have enough developed coordination to swim without adults holding them. Because of that, they can take formal swimming lessons with professional instructors. Parents should carefully choose the program and the teacher. If it is scary for a child, parents can go to the first lesson with them. Children of that age should practice in shallow water. They should learn to float in water without the help of adults, submerge their heads under the water for at least five seconds, change positions from standing to swimming without the aid of a teacher, swim smoothly in the water, use kicking and arm movements. They should also learn about water safety.
The safety measures are: the instructor should be close to the children even if they already can swim; parents and instructors should not force children if they are afraid right now; the pool has to be shallow, or its deep and shallow zones have to be marked; if you watch your child swimming, don’t rely on another adult, even lifeguards, to do it; if a child is afraid or does not like to get their face wet, practice it at home by letting them put their head under the shower (Eidam par. 6-7).
At the age of 6 years and older, children can hold their breath for longer than ten seconds. They can also swim underwater and take objects that lay at the bottom of the pool. They can jump into the water, dip, and return to the surface without help. The children can start learning the main swimming moves, such as breaststroke and backstroke. At this age, children are strong enough to swim at bigger distances.
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Thank these facts, parents do not have to be in the water with their children during swimming, but they still need to supervise, sitting outside the pool, because children may be too confident and risk too much. The safety measures are adult supervision; encourage the child to swim with a friend or a parent to make it look like fun instead of a safety measure; teach children to dive only if the water is deep enough; parents should be careful when taking their children to the beach or lake because it is very different from the pool and children can be at risk; children should always wear a lifejacket during boating and waterskiing even if they are good swimmers (Eidam par. 8-9).
In conclusion, teaching a child to swim is an important stage of their development. Swimming is good for their health, emotions, and contacts with parents. For children of different age, different activities are useful. For babies and toddlers, floating and water games are the best. At 4-5 years, children learn to swim without parents. At 6 years and older, they can learn swimming strokes, dive, and swim for longer distances. Parental supervision is necessary at any age.
Eidam, Kourtney. n.d. Teach Your Child to Swim. Web.
McKay, Rob and Kathy McKay (2005). Learn to Swim: Step-by-Step Confidence and Safety Skills for Babies and Young Children. Web.
Moran, Kevin and Teresa Stanley. “Parental perceptions of toddler water safety, swimming ability and swimming lessons.” International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion 13.3 (2006): 139-143. Taylor & Francis Online. Web.