Teach Your Child to Swim

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Hey guys! It's Navigating Neva with your host Neva Nicole. Thank you for listening. 

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So, today is episode 8: Teach your child to swim. Learning to swim is on our ‘layers of protection’ and our ‘water safety list’. 

I want you to be safe I want each child to be safe, and I want a zero drowning. I’m an aquatic professional with 20 plus years of experience in my industry, check out my bio. From sitting on the stands and lifeguarding, to certifying lifeguards and running a pool – I have seen a lot, and I’m here to share with you my opinions and things that I’ve learned. I want you to stay safe and enjoy the summer. Listen up, so you can have a happy and healthy summer and as always remember your safety comes first. 

Well guys, today as promised we're going to talk about teaching your child to swim. 

And I’m sure many of you have heard: ‘Just throw them in, they'll swim or sink’. And, that may work for some people, it didn't work for me. As you guys remember, I talked about my pool incident and following my pool incident, my parents put me in swim lessons. This was in the 80s  – it was a really nice pool – I don't really remember it, I just remember it being very white and very large compared to our backyard pool. It’s a very large pool and we sat on the edge. The swim instructor – I don't remember anything about – it could have been him, could have been her, she could have been nice, she could have been mean, I don't know. I just know when it was my turn I came off the wall – I was either pushed or pulled, I’m sure I didn't willingly leave the wall. I lacked the confidence that the water was gonna hold me. Since I had just experienced falling to the bottom of the pool, the water in that case, did not hold me. So, I was startled, I was scared. And swim lessons did not turn out right for me. 

So to recap: I went to swim lessons; they pushed me in and that was the end of that. So, first I do want to tell you – I’ve been teaching swimming lessons since 2000. I’ve been certified through the American Red Cross and the YMCA of the USA. They had the fundamentals of swimming and then preschool and parent aquatics and then youth and adults – those did lapse and run out. But I had gotten my water safety instructor certification with the American Red Cross and I’ve kept it current since 2005. I’ve renewed every year, it hasn't expired. As long as you teach, it stays current, and I teach a lot. Sometimes I teach 12 classes a week – those aren't privates, those are group lessons. So I got a lot of teaching experience, but what I can tell you is: If a child has a bad experience in the pool, the worst thing you can do is pull them out. Chances are they're going to remember that experience, and you don't want the last time they were in the water to be engraved in their brain, that it was a bad unpleasurable experience like mine. 

So, if we have an incident at a pool or at a swim lesson and a child slips in or slips under for a few seconds, Mom or Dad is usually more traumatized than the child is. And if I just pick the kid up, he's fine. In fact, it'll actually build confidence. If I tell him: ‘Hey, you're okay, look you're good’.  And now he's not afraid to go under the water. So a lot of it is your reaction time, some swimming schools give you a handbook and tell you how to behave, your reaction greatly affects your child's learning ability. So how you act: Before the lesson, going to the lesson, while they're in the lesson and when you leave the lesson your actions are just as much; making this a good experience as what the instructor can do with your kid. 

But today, we're talking about how you can teach your kid to be a swimmer or teach them to swim; skip the swim lesson part; skip to finding the instructor; lots of lots of things go into play there. So as we mentioned in our other episode ‘how to pick a swim instructor’. 

So I’ve numbered these for you guys, there's five things we're going to go over. 

Number one is: You should be able to swim. Just because your safety comes first, I would hate to put you in an environment such as the pool where you can't swim, and then rely on you to teach others to swim. 

So if you didn't listen to last week's episode ‘teach yourself how to swim’, spend some time learning how to swim yourself or find an instructor that's good. If you have a fear or a phobia, and it's just really hard for you to teach yourself, absolutely find the right instructor for that and move forward. If you want some coaching or some pen pal instruction, I will absolutely be your pen pal for a small fee. You can email me, and I will guide you down that path to get you swimming, because we want safe swimmers in the water.

So number one, you should be able to swim.

Number two: Water safety. Now we've talked about this in both the first episode and the second episode with our layers of protection. One  – water safety. Absolutely there's no solo bathing. I highly highly recommend you go to a pool that has a lifeguard, and if not, if you want to go to your neighborhood pool or your backyard pool, have somebody else out there with you. If something happens to you, what's your child gonna do. So somebody needs to be there. Not saying that you're gonna drown, but you could have a medical emergency, and then you're in the water, especially, if you're prone to seizures. So your safety comes first.     

There needs to be a designated water watcher or a lifeguard present, if you're teaching somebody else how to swim. 

You also need safety equipment: Your pool deck should have safety equipment. If your pool deck does not, we can make some really cheap– with trash and rope. I can tell you how to do that. You can also Google it. It's a heaving jug – it's the American Red Cross, search that, American Red Cross heaving jug. Otherwise you're looking for things like a ring buoy, a shepherd's crook, a reaching pole, a throw bag: These are all devices that you can buy online, or at your local boating store or even Wal-Mart – in the boating section. 

And of course, our water quality is extremely important. You want to swim in a designated area, and you want that water to be treated well, properly maintained, we don't want to get swimmer's ear, or any of the other recreational water illnesses. So we do want to make sure our water quality is on point.

And temperature: You might not know but temperature is a big thing we rely on in the aquatics world. For little ones, we want the temperature more around 88 degrees 89. So if you're thinking 8 months; 6 months to 36 months – that's the temperature we're looking for. That's also good for preschoolers – three to five year old. The regular water temperature is 84. So if you're an adult or a teen or a kid you should be comfortable in 84 degrees. And remember, you're going to move, you're going to swim – so your internal temperature is going to heat up, 84 degrees is good. Each time you're in the water, your body is maintaining its core temperature. So as that temperature drops, your body has to work harder to regulate the core temperature. So you see: Our lab swimmers, our Olympic swimmers, the professional swimmers, they're in colder water – it's 78 degrees 79. Normally you go to a pool and it should be 84 and up. Any warmer than the 80s is too warm – you're gonna get sick, nauseous, you're going to be overheated. It might feel nice, but you don't want to do any actual work in it – you kind of just want to lay around. So, our ideal swimming temperature is 84 to 86 degrees; if they're little, it can go a little warmer to 88 and 89.

So, that brings us to number three: Your child has to feel safe. They're not going to learn to swim, if they don't feel safe in the environment they're in. So they need to feel safe in the area; a lot of times for kids each new pool or body of water is a brand new experience. They might have confidence in their bathtub, but they don't have confidence in the backyard pool. They might have confidence in a kiddie pool, but they don't have confidence in the backyard pool. They might be totally fine in the backyard pool and grandma's pool and the community pool, and then you go to like the city parks and recs or swim lessons at an aquatic center, and it's a big pool. It's a different environment and they need time to adjust and acclimate and become comfortable. So your child may be doing a great job swimming at home in your backyard or in your neighborhood pool, and then you go to the beach and brand new environment – treat it as such. You've got to let them reacclimate to that area. So, that's not all with being comfortable. 

I said number one was – you should be able to swim. Unless you're really good at deceiving, your child will sense your uncomfortableness or your lack of confidence in the water, if you're a non-swimmer. 

So if you have any fear, we don't want to pass that down to our child; it's not going to make them comfortable, and that's going to slow down the learning process here. So, you want your child to feel comfortable and feel safe. 

There are proper holds and techniques. When I hold the child, I make sure they feel secure and safe. So one of the most common is, you're going to hold them underneath their armpits, around their rib cage to provide support. And what you're doing is, you're always making sure that their face is out of the water. So I’ve seen some parents holding them in this position, and just plowing their mouth through the water and the kid, she's taking in water trying to struggle there. This usually happens in our parent-child class and that's not building trust – they're not feeling comfortable. So you want to be mindful of where their mouth is when you're holding them. So this position – under the armpits, around the rib cage  – you can do a front toe position where they're facing you like a hug, and you can do a side to a position where you're holding them out to the side. And as they get bigger, you can hold under the chest area up by the collarbones but not choking; just provide support because they're going to be floating and then you can take that other hand and support the outside hip bone, and then you can also hold their hands. If they're in a prone position, you can hold their hands and support that hip. So giving them minimal support but they still feel comfortable. In addition to feeling comfortable in your arms, they've got to trust you. I see dads a lot, I don't mean to call you guys out – you're just more exciting, you're the fun ones  – you always toss the kids up in the air and they love it, same thing, but backwards in the pool when we jump in, I always see dads hold the kid and they go way under. So, mom holds the kid and they go underwater – maybe to their eyebrows or right above their head. Dad holds them and they go down 3 feet and then back up. When you submerge your children or you hold them: Look for cues, look for facial expressions, look for fear in their eyes. 

We don't want to dunk them too deep – when they're swimmers and they love it, that's cool; but in the beginning when you're trying to build trust and comfort because we've gotta acclimate them to the environment, we wanna move forward in a good learning process. That's not the time to play and dunk them to the bottom of the pool.

So number four is: Practice. Once they're comfortable in the water, it's just practice. When I was a lifeguard in high school, there was a swimmer – he would come out, he would swim his laps, he would go back into the facility and grab his little boy from the child watch room and break him out and they would swim. He was almost two or under two, this was a long time ago, but he was little and that the guy would take him under the laplands and I was just so impressed. I hadn't been teaching swimming lessons yet – I was just a lifeguard and I thought it was really cool. But all the dad did was bring his son out to the pool every day when he came swimming. He didn't pay for swim lessons; it was exposure. 

I’m not going to name the organization, but there is a very well-known swimming organization and their lessons are 10 minutes a day, every day. So you could do the same thing – you put your kid in the water every day and what happens – they learn to swim, exposure, practice, practice. Now, a lot of things go into play – you can't just go to the water every day; you have to go to the water with the intent that we're working on swimming. And they have to feel comfortable, and they have to like the environment –so all of this helps in the learning process. 

Number five is: Skills. And there's quite a few of them. If you tuned in for last week on ‘teach yourself how to swim’ – this is really where we picked up, and it's no different for children. It's different in the sense that children don't need as much time to develop their muscles. I just teach them to do it and they just go, and children don't need to think about it, and have physics get in the way and all that. Children just they just do it. So it's nice to teach little ones to swim; personally three to five year olds are my favorite children to teach to swim. But I do start swimming lessons at age one and adults again are my favorite, adults with fear or phobia. 

So our skills: The first skill is they need to feel buoyancy – that just means they can float, the water will hold you, you will float, you have to relax and be calm enough to allow that to happen. If you tense up you're gonna sink. So when we do this with children, you can hold them all day. They're never gonna feel it, because you're holding them, for them to feel buoyancy. You've got to put them in a, I hate to say it, but on an inner tube – in swimmies. That's how they're learning to experience that feeling. But in swimming we don't use inner tubes and swimmies, I don't even use float belts in my swim lessons. 

I do use instructional flotation devices – not personal flotation devices. Personal flotation devices are your life jackets – coast guard approved, to keep your face up if you're unconscious in the water. But a instructional flotation device would be like a swim bar or a noodle or a kick board. So the child's not going to float on a cake board, no, but you can put them on a noodle and let them go. You can put them on a swim bar and let them go, and they're going to feel a level of buoyancy. It's not their true level because that item is holding them but they are experiencing buoyancy. So we do buoyancy with support and without support. So with support doesn't mean you're holding them; with support means they're on an item: Like a swim bar, or a noodle and then you can hold that item to catch them, but you want them to start to feel this – they can do this on their own in a kiddie pool, they can do this on the steps. Let your child learn and experience at their pace. Once they've got buoyancy down, with support, you want them to float without support. And they will they'll stick their face in, that's the key, you got to put your face in. If you didn't – your head is heavy, it's as heavy as a bowling ball. So lifting that or keeping that out of the water takes a lot and I can't float while doing so. So, they're gonna float with their face in. Children are really buoyant – they will sink to the bottom like I did, but they're also buoyant. 

So next is: Breath control, and yes little kids have breath control. How do I know this? Because when I put your kid under, they don't inhale the water. They instinctively hold their breath. So you want to put them under on cue: Like one two three go or ready set go. And they learn and they just hold their breath and they go under. Now we don't want to hold our breath, when we're under. Because it's a sport – it's a cardio sport, a cardio exercise, and we always want to be breathing. So if we're under water, we're exhaling; if we're above water, we're inhaling. Underwater: Exhaling, above water: Inhaling. And there's lots of fun games you can play. You can go underwater and have a tea party; you can go underwater and collect items. My favorite game is – the ice cream game.  I’m not going to post it, but if you're curious you can email me at navigatingneva@gmail.com. You can also go down the pole and save the puppies; that's always been a favorite, I will share that one with you. 

So, one of the skills in preschool aquatics is that they use their hand over hand and go down. Why is this necessary? This is necessary because your little one is buoyant and they don't actually go to the bottom. So they use a pole to go to the bottom and exhaling to help get them down. They're already floating enough so we need to exhale the water out of our lungs to help us get down, we're going to float up to the top, get our next breath go back down, save more puppies. Yay! So many games that you can play that do breath control. Bobbing is a great one. You guys can Google that. You go under, exhale come up, inhale. But you can do it like: Holding their hands, they go, you go, they go, you go, whatever you want make it fun; learning's fun. That's breath control. 

And then gliding: If they can float, they can glide. So once they can exhale or hold their breath, once they have breath control to put their face under, they can put their face in while being buoyant and glide to you. They want to glide from you to the wall, the wall to you, you to dad, to mom, back and forth. If you're in a shallow water pool, they can push off the bottom and glide from the bottom to you; they can glide from the stairs.

So gliding: And gliding requires no action except the initial push off the wall. So I usually have kids stand on my leg, bend their knees push off and they glide, and they love it. So much fun depending on who we're talking about: They can be baby shark, they can be superman, they can be whatever character they love that flies through the air; they can be an airplane. 

So buoyancy, breath control, gliding. And then we've got our arm action and our leg action. So when your child's little or beginning, we don't actually teach them – we're going to do the butterfly. We let them use their arms in a way that's helpful. So I let them cup their hands. We use spoons, not forks, so that you can keep the water and then you move the water. And they can do an alternating arm action or a symmetrical arm action. So kind of like a breaststroke or a front crawl, not doggy paddle but it's their pick. So each person has a natural kick and scoops that come naturally to you. So some people are better when you're trying to get them to do alternating arms – where they take turns and scoop. Some people are better when their hands are simultaneously scooping. Same with the kick: Now we don't want to form bad habits with our kicks and our scoops. But we're not into formal lessons yet where you're actually doing stroke development but you want to kick from your leg – your whole leg, not just from the knee, your foot is like a paddle or a flipper. You got long legs unless you're doing the whip kick and then all that is not even relevant. Once they're practicing their kicks and their scoops – their arm actions and their leg actions, they're just going to roll over, which we already did.

Buoyancy and you want to introduce buoyancy on the back. So they're going to swim they're going to roll over and get a breath and they're going to swim: This is called swim, float, swim and this happens before we lift our head to the side and take a breath. So what does your little one do? Your little one scoops or glides to you, then they roll over catch their breath, roll back over and swim back over to you. 

That’s it, that's how you teach your kid to swim. You just get in the water and do that every day. So you have a pool in your backyard, you have a pool in your neighborhood, you have a pool in your community: You go to the pool, typically the pool pass or the pool fee is a lot cheaper than this one lessons. You get in with your kid every day, and you teach them how to swim and you can do this. It maybe you aren't the best person to do it for your child, I taught my son how to swim. My older son – I found him the best instructor and paid them to teach him. So it depends on you and your child, but by all means you can teach your child this one. It’s exposure, they feel comfortable. 

So I’m gonna recap. We have number one: You should be able to swim. Number two: Safety, the water quality, safety equipment and a good water temperature. Number three: They need to feel safe and feel comfortable to acclimate themselves. Number four: Practice, practice, practice and number five: All the skills. 

And that's it guys. You just go to the water every day, you just want to avoid the bad things like: Not paying attention to your kid, you gotta lifeguard your kid, or have a designated water watcher. Don’t put them in a swimming the whole time or a puddle jumper. If you are using those items, if you have little ones that are the same age like I did, take turns. You want them to spend half their water time in one and half their water time out of it. So put them in, work with one, halfway through, switch and work with the other one. So you guys, that concludes today's lesson. I am so happy that you guys tuned in, to teach yourself or to teach your child how to swim. Next week we're going to start a new topic: I’m going to talk about fitness in the water, a lot of water aerobics. Also, we're going to talk about fitness in the water and what that looks like, and how you can stay fit in the water, because it's summertime and the gym is nice but the pool's better so why don't you get your workout in while you're in the pool. So I hope you tune back in, please share us. My mission is to have no drownings and i need your help I need you to help me share that, and if you haven't noticed on my website, I’ve got a free water watcher pledge card, so if you haven't taken the water watcher pledge card or didn't get your water watcher pledge card from pool safely, by all means go to my website and put in your information. It’s while supplies last – I have a hundred of them, I will give out for free. if you watched episode two my second one ‘water safety’ – I’ve got a little fridge magnet that has a reminder of those, and for last week ‘teach yourself how to swim’ I’ve got a little card I can mail you, so you can check off as you go, kind of like a progress report card.

All those are free – I will just send them to you because I am happy you support my podcast and listen. I’ve also got merchandise, if you want to buy that that would help me fund the podcast. But so far we're just going to keep giving it to you guys. so please share my podcast, also give me feedback what you want to hear about, what you want to know about, what I haven't told you that you need to know that I know, and I will see you guys next week. 

Have a happy and safe summer! Remember I want no drownings; zero drownings. I want you to be safe, I want each child to be safe. Until next week, have fun.