Summer is on the horizon, and families throughout the United States are making exciting plans to head to beaches, lakes, rivers and pools. If you haven’t already done so, prioritize teaching water safety to your children to help them avoid a drowning or near-drowning accident.
What should you do, however, if your little one doesn’t want to get in the water or if he or she is afraid to learn how to swim? Here are three tips for teaching reluctant children how to be safe around the water this summer.
- Start before summer swim time arrives.
You can start teaching babies and toddlers about water and water safety in the bathtub. A “parent and me” baby or toddler swim class can also help show young ones that water is fun. Choose a class that emphasizes safety, not skills: your child should learn how to pop back to the surface, back-float, and get to the side of the pool. Conrad Cooper, a swimming instructor based in Los Angeles who specializes in teaching water-timid children basic pool safety skills also offers this potentially counterintuitive advice: “Learning to swim does not have to be fun. It is knowing how to swim that is fun. The learning process is often difficult and learning to swim is a process. It must involve breath control, propulsion and floating. The combination of these skills provides most children with the necessary skills to save his or her life.”
- Introduce life jackets gently and gradually.
Make life jackets an essential whenever your children are near open water. Introduce the idea by keeping the kids’ life jackets in their bedroom or play area and helping them try them on and wear them around the house.
- Encourage your child to come into the water with you, but don’t push it.
Throwing your child in the pool or lake is a good way to turn them off and to impair their ability to learn water safety. Instead, use gentle “peer pressure” by bringing your child along where other children are having fun in the water. Let them know they can always ask for you to come with them, but don’t push. Praise them for “baby steps” they take, like playing near the shoreline or wading.
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