Safety is the first concern when teaching your toddler to swim.
If you have dreams of your toddler becoming an Olympic swimmer, introduce him to the sport at a young age. Not every child is keen on jumping in a cold swimming pool, and if that describes your toddler, he'll need additional encouragement to take the initial plunge. Despite health and social benefits for toddlers, the American Academy of Pediatrics feels a child is not ready for formal swimming lessons until his fourth birthday. Following a few simple steps can keep your toddler safe and get him in line for that Olympic berth.
1Use bath time to introduce your child to the water before taking him to the pool. Slowly introducing your young fish to water can help reduce any fear. Gently splash water on her body and encourage water exploration through toys and activities in the bathtub. Always supervise your child while she plays in the tub because, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, a child younger than age 2 is at a high risk for drowning in the home.
2Make your trip to the pool an activity your toddler desires. As your toddler eats cereal in the morning, tell her that the day will include swimming and describe how much fun she will have. Your excitement about the sport will rub off on your little sponge and in turn make her more interested in swimming. The more a toddler wants to swim, the more likely you will avoid arguments about attending swim practice when she is ready to join a real swimming team.
3Take your child to swimming pools with experienced lifeguards who can assist if the need arises. Don't swim with your toddler in lakes, rivers and oceans. Stronger and unpredictable currents make it even more difficult for your little swimmer to negotiate the water. Not only is safety more of a concern in these settings, his lack of muscles make it a harder environment to successfully swim. Rough terrain surrounding lakes and rivers also pose additional hazards and can result in tears and unnecessary boo-boos.
4Invest in flotation devices appropriate for toddlers. Buy a life jacket that is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and fits tightly on your toddler's small body. While you might think a water toy such as a noodle could double as a floating aid, this is not a recommended use. Never rely on any flotation device, even a life jacket, to keep your toddler above water.
- Always monitor your child in the pool and remain within arm's length regardless of how shallow the pool is.