I made my way across the concrete pool deck as it scorched my feet, and I balanced my almost two year old son on my hip. At 11:00 in the morning, the Southern air was already hot and sticky. I couldn’t wait for the respite that the cool water would bring. I was giddy at the prospect of my first time in the pool with my son this season. As I stepped onto the first stair and the cool water lapped my feet, I also felt something that I really hadn’t expected.
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My son tensed up. Every muscle in his body clenched, almost involuntarily. He clasped his tiny arms around my neck the best he could. He tightened his grip, and began to claw his way to higher ground – meaning my head. I felt as if I’d been engulfed by an octopus.
I was surprised, because this wasn’t our first summer at the pool. Although, last year he was so little that he just nestled between my neck and shoulder, fell asleep, and drooled. He hardly even got wet.
As he tightened his grip, I took another step into the water. He made it known that he did not want to go into the water. I realized that this year he was fully aware of the vastness of the pool. And it was unnerving.
As we walked to the baby pool, I felt his muscles beginning to relax. Relief washed over us both. I confess that I needed a moment to let go of the vision in my head of him giggling, splashing, and loving the water.
As I did, we enjoyed our day at the baby pool. That afternoon I made the most important decision I could have made about teaching him to swim and keeping him safe in the water for the rest of his life.
[bctt tweet=”Teaching #watersafety to children should be fun! #watersafetymonth” username=”SpoilMy”]
An Important Decision About Teaching Water Safety to Children
Teaching water safety to children and teaching them how to swim is important so that they can fill their lives with the enjoyment of the beach, the ocean, lakes, water sports, pools, and swim teams.
[bctt tweet=”The first step in teaching #watersafety to children is to make water fun!” username=”SpoilMy”]
Remember, this should be fun, so if it’s not, be patient. This is a learning process that does not happen overnight. Like anything, the more you practice, the more familiar the activity will become. I believe that your child’s experience in the water can influence the rest of his life. If the experience is positive, think about the added quality of life he will have since aquatic activities can be enjoyed at any age. The benefits of swimming include increased strength, coordination, self-esteem and cognitive development. Who wouldn’t want that for their child? (cite)
That summer, we had a blast! I found lively ways to play with him in water, but not the pool. We focused on water play and getting wet, but in a controlled way.
Making sure that children have fun in and around water is the first step for teaching any water safety activities. This can be especially true for highly sensitive children. Highly sensitive children may either fear the water or dislike the water for an number of reasons. The temperature of the water, the feel of the water on their skin, the feel of wearing wet clothing, the feel of the bathing suit itself, the smell of the chlorine, the sights and sounds of crowds – any of these things can cause a highly sensitive child to dislike being in the water.
These were ten of our favorites ways to begin getting used to the idea of water as fun:
- Splash Pads: We have several splash pads in our area and we had a lot of fun exploring each of them.
- Water Parks: We have one water park close to us and encountered several out of town water parks while traveling that summer. Water parks typically have a special area for the toddlers and preschoolers to play.
- River Bank: We spent LOTS of time outdoors on the banks of our local river. There are so many ways to play on the side of a river – shoes on or off; clothes on or off; in the edge of the water; playing with rocks or sand on the banks – all make for endless hours of fun!
- Small Pond: We have a small pond close to our home and this offered all of the same benefits as playing on the river bank. This was a great way to start with completely still water.
- Shower Play: My son loved sitting to the side of the shower spray with a squirt bottle containing 1T liquid soap and then filled with water. He would then “wash” the shower walls.
- Bath Tub Play: Some of our favorite toys for the tub were a simple set of measuring cups to fill and pour or these favorite pipes. They come in five shapes that can be used individually or put together to make a chain.
- Water Table / Sand Table:
- Mining for Gems: Many places have these attractions that children love!
- Water Toys for the Yard: The list can be endless! Slip n’ slides, fun sprinklers, wiggly sprinklers, water balloons, even the garden hose!
- Baby Pool: This baby pool was the one we turned to after having a number of other successes. It included cups for additional water play!
Despite their inauspicious beginnings, both of my boys now love swimming and are on the swim team. Summers are filled with trips to Grandpa’s lake house for canoeing, swimming, and tubing. I’m confident that they will enjoy various water activities for the rest of their lives.
Remember, too, that teaching water safety to children isn’t only for the warmer months. My father tells a story from his New England childhood. As a group of children were ice skating, a boy fell through the ice. The older children, including my father, tried to save him but they were not able to. He was devastated and that moment forever changed his life as well as the lives of so many others. In the winter months, remember that ice can be thinner and more dangerous than it appears.
May is officially water safety month, but any time is the right time for teaching water safety to children. Join my friends over at BonBon Break as they celebrate water safety month with an entire series devoted to teaching water safety to children. They’ve paired with water safety expert, Kim Shults, to give you some of the very best information available for teaching water safety to children. It’s the very best way to enjoy the water and warm weather! Stay safe and have a blast!