By Mary Beth Sultenfuss
(From the July and August 1996 Association Newsletter)
Constant Supervision –this is the most difficult task for the parent or guardian of a young child. Don’t ever assume they can’t or won’t do something- as soon as you do, they will figure out how to do it! When there is more than one adult present, make one person responsible for watching the child. Don’t ever assume someone else is watching.
Barriers – the more your child has to go through to get to the water the better. This gives you a chance to notice what they have in mind. Doors with locks, fences with gates that lock, safe covers for your spa or pool – all of these help.
Teach Your Child to be “Water Wise” – to enjoy the water and respect it. It really is quite easy. Every time your child is in or around the water give your child a positive “little” lesson. Make it brief and make it fun.
In the Bathtub – use a foam ball or a colorful cup to pour water over the top of your child’s head. Only do it one or two times and make a game of it. This will help your child learn breath control and get used to the water on the face. Practice kicking fast little kicks with straight legs. Do this while sitting up in the tub so the child can see the action and learn to associate the words kicking and splash with the motion. You can have your baby sit in front of you (with his/her back to you) while you hold his/her legs at the knees and do the kicking motion.
Teach Your Child That the Wall is a Safe Place That Will Always be There – A five to six month old can learn to hold onto the wall by himself. Teach your child to “inch” along the wall (holding the wall with their hands, move around the pool.) This skill they can learn quickly and helps them be independent in the water before they can do any swimming skills. If they should fall in a place where they cannot climb out, they may be able to “inch” around to the steps or ladder. Teach your child to always go back to the wall when they jump into the water. They MUST learn that there may not always be a person there to catch them.
A Good Strong Kick is Very Important – A fast little kick with straight legs and a splash on top of the water while the face is in will zoom your child back to the wall!
If Your Child Falls In, Try Not To Panic – Your reaction can be more frightening to the child than falling into the water. Quickly and calmly help the child get to the wall. Then tell the child how smart he/she was to turn around and get to the wall and what a great job he/she did handling the situation. Then as soon as possible get in the water with the child and play a game or just kick around together to have a pleasant experience in the water. Make the best of the situation and make them feel good about it. Always try to leave the water happy.
Know How To Swim Yourself! Know First Aid and CPR. How could you possibly help your child if they needed you and you did not know what to do?