Just like adults, children make progress more easily when they are having fun. And this is true of swimming too. Playing in water helps your child to become familiar with the aquatic environment and to develop their capabilities, without even realising it! Close-up on 10 games and how they will help your child to learn to swim.
LEARNING TO SWIM...
1. LEARNING TO WALK IN WATER BEFORE LEARNING TO SWIM
As a famous poet once said in one of his fables, "slow and steady wins the race”. This is also true of swimming. It is better to slowly get used to this element, rather than trying to master it as soon as you get into the water. It is also important that your child feels a degree of control in this world that is totally new to them. You can achieve this by simply practising walking, but in water (where they can touch the bottom, of course). In this way, they can become accustomed to the aquatic environment in complete peace of mind, and understand that they are still in control of their body.
2. THE STARFISH
This water game is particularly helpful, because it makes children aware of the fact that they can float on water. When we take our first steps in water, one of our greatest fears is the thought of sinking.
To do the starfish, hold your child on their back (with or without armbands), ask them to stretch out their arms, and then to do the same with their legs. Gradually let them go, without surprising them, and they will naturally find their balance by gently beating their arms and kicking their legs. Once they feel more confident, they will become more stable. You can also ask them to try to do the starfish on their front, instead of on their back, which can sometimes make them feel more apprehensive, because children (and adults) do not like putting their face underwater.
3. PUTTING YOUR HEAD UNDERWATER.
Putting your head underwater is an essential step that is not always easy to take. It means that your child must be prepared to plunge one of the vital parts of their body underwater. Namely, their respiratory tract. It is important that they understand that they can come back up to the surface at any time, before putting their head underwater for a few seconds. Your child can start by entering the water vertically up to their mouth and then blowing some bubbles. Then, as far as their nose, while still continuing to breathe out air through their mouth. Finally, your child may now feel ready to plunge their entire face underwater. Most importantly, they need to understand that they must constantly breathe out when underwater, and that they can only breathe in, once their face is out of the water in the open air.
4. THE TREASURE HUNT
The treasure hunt is an exercise in which your child will be completely submerged underwater in order to find and pick up rings or other objects that do not float. The challenging aspect of this game helps children to forget their fear of being underwater by concentrating on the objects that they have to bring back to the surface. You should start playing this game in shallow water. In this way, children can quickly return to the surface of the water by pushing on the bottom with their feet.
5. PUSH AND GLIDE
Pushing and gliding will teach your child how to glide through the water. To do this exercise, your child must lie on their belly with their face in the water and their arms stretched out in front of them, aligned with the rest of their body. While in this position, ask them to push against the side of the pool with their feet and to glide like a plank, while breathing out through their mouth at the same time.
If they feel sufficiently at ease, ask them to kick their legs, so that they continue gliding along the surface of the water.
This complete exercise works on several aspects that are essential to learning to swim: floating, breathing and kicking the legs.
If the pool has a slide, you can invite your child to try it out. Slides are an excellent way of learning how to land in water and then return to the surface without panicking. We never know exactly how we will land in the water, and the speed can sometimes surprise us. All we can do is improvise...What better way to learn and to make progress in the water?
7. LET'S PLAY DOLPHINS OR MERMAIDS
Dolphins, mermaids, whales or even little goldfish, it really doesn't matter. The idea is that your child draws inspiration from the way these fascinating marine creatures swim. This form of free swimming without any technical constraints will help your child to become aware of their capacities in the water and offer them an opportunity to enjoy new sensations of movement and gliding. A perfectly natural way to become familiar with the technical movements of one of the four strokes! And, contrary to many preconceptions, breaststroke is not the easiest stroke to learn.
IMPROVING THEIR SWIMMING TECHNIQUE...
To organise a relay, form two teams of at least two swimmers. Explain the swimming order and the authorised strokes. To hand over, the swimmer simply has to touch the hand of the following swimmer. The first team to finish all its relays is the winner. Ready? 1, 2, 3, go!
Dodgeball is similar to water polo, inasmuch as it demands a degree of agility in the water and some strength too, while paying attention to the other swimmers. The game is simple.One ball and two teams. Every time a swimmer is touched by a member of the opposing team, they are taken prisoner. To get out of jail, the prisoner must then touch a member of the team that sent them to jail. The team that sends all the players in the opposing team to jail wins the game.
10. THE TUNNEL
Ah, the tunnel! This instructive game is really great fun. First, hold your breath and learn how to control the quantity of air available in your lungs. Then, dive to the bottom of the pool and swim between the legs of the other swimmers who form a tunnel, then swim back up to the surface. Guaranteed fun!
You can also play the tunnel with pool arches.
REASSURING PARENTS TO MAKE THEIR CHILDREN FEEL MORE CONFIDENT
Not all parents feel at ease in water, but this is not problem. In most cases, this is due to their own experiences in water when they were kids. Some parents may not even know how to swim (it's never too late to learn), which means that they cannot accompany their children in the water. While others are so keen on getting everything exactly right, that they put pressure on themselves.
Take a deep breath, relax and have faith in yourself. As you probably already know, our children are capable of feeling our own emotions. So, before going to the swimming pool with them, it is essential that you feel at ease in the water yourself first. You can even ask someone you trust and who feels at ease in water to accompany your children to begin with.
Then, your child and you can do ALL the fun and instructive exercises we described earlier! Doing these exercises yourself can be an excellent way of reassuring your child that they are capable of getting by in water;).
Once both of you feel comfortable in the water, do not hesitate to let go of your child for a few seconds. Don't worry, doing so does not mean that you are a bad parent! Your child needs to stand on their own two feet, or rather to swim with their own fins! This step is just as important as your patience and your encouragements in helping your child to build up their self-confidence. By letting your child go, you demonstrate your confidence and your belief in them. And this will make them feel ten feet tall!