Swim Time: Getting Preschoolers Used To The Water

Penguin City Swim teaches IPS students to swim during the 2019 camp season.

The highlight of my summer as a child (and now, as a grown-up!) was/is spending as much time as possible in and around the water.  As an adult, I became a Water Safety Instructor with the American Red Cross and learned how to teach children of all ages how to swim.  Providing children with swim lessons is vital in order to promote a safe and comfortable relationship with the water.

As parents and caregivers, there are many simple things that we can do with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and bigger kids to get them comfortable in and around the water.  Similar to the play-based learning philosophy at The International Preschools, these tips and ideas will allow children to learn and be comfortable in the water while having fun at the same time!

  • Promote the most important idea around water safety:  do not swim/go into the water alone.  There is no way to “drown-proof” any child or adult.  Instead, instill the rules of the water in your child:  children should never be near/in/around water, be it a pool, tub, or otherwise, alone.  Children who have “no fear” may think it’s okay to enter the water alone, and that’s not okay.
  • If your child is seemingly afraid of the water, take it seriously.  Many times, children are not afraid of the water itself, but what comes with it (i.e. in the tub, there may be a fear of falling down the drain or the loud noise that comes with the faucet being turned on.  Reassure your child that he/she is safe.
  • Approach getting used to the water a little bit at a time.  Rarely do kids go from never being near the water to being Olympic swimmers!  Allow your child to get used to the water a little bit at a time.  One of the first steps in swim lessons for children is getting in and out of the water safely.  Maybe the first time they go to the beach or the pool, they go into the water up to their ankles or stand on the first step of the pool; the next time, if they are comfortable, increase the water entry to their knees.  Or, simply repeat each step as many times as needed until your child is comfortable enough to proceed.  Provide lots of positive reinforcement when your child achieves a new “goal” in the water, no matter how small!
  • Let your child “take control” of getting themselves wet.  An easy way to get children used to the water, particularly water on their bodies and faces, is to give them the control in doing so.  Using toys like a small measuring cup or watering can, demonstrate getting your arms wet by pouring water from these objects onto your arms, legs, etc.  Allow your child to do the same.  Children open up to this activity easily, and it’s fun!
  • Ready to go underwater?  You can also use the idea above to teach children ages 3 and up to get comfortable going underwater.  First, dip your chin into the water and ask your child, “Can you get your chin wet?”  If he/she is comfortable doing this, move on to the next step by asking/demonstrating, “Can you get your lips wet?”  Continue on, as slowly as needed for maximum comfort, until your child can put his/her head underwater.

Again, the most important thing to do in the water is stay safe, never swim alone…and have fun!  Happy swimming!

IPS Summer Camp is not running this season, but the 2020-2021 school year is!  Apply online and join the IPS community here.


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