Swimming, as an aerobic exercise, provides a total body workout and helps promote cardiovascular health, improve lung function, maintain your weight and strengthen muscles. Swimming is also low-impact, meaning it doesn’t inflict as much stress on the joints as high-impact exercises such as running. While it provides these benefits, it can also provide them for your toddler and get your toddler used to exercise.
If your toddler is just beginning in the water and isn’t ready to be fully submerged in water, encourage a wallflower status. Have your toddler grab hold of the pool’s ledge so her fingers won’t be trampled by those walking poolside. Ideally this ledge is in the water and is where the excess water flows downward. Hold on to the ledge area on one side of her. Encourage her to extend her legs toward the middle of the pool and paddle them under the water. The sense of weightlessness and repetitive action, as well as seeing you perform the action as well, can encourage her to continue the exercise. This gets your tot used to the water without being fully submerged, promotes lower body exercise and teaches the basic swimming skill of kicking.
This exercise helps children get used to the water and jumping into it. Have your tot sit on the ledge of the pool with his feet dangling in the water. Stand in front of him while in the water, with your arms extended and holding onto his torso. Begin singing “Humpty Dumpty,” gently swaying to the song so as to relax your child. Once you reach “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,” encourage your child to slide into the pool, while still being held by you during and after his dip. Finish the song while both of you are in the water. Repeat as often as he likes, and encourage any behavior that indicates increased confidence with jumping in the water: wanting to stand on the pool’s actual cement or tile edge, not the ledge, during the song, or not wanting you to hold on to him.
Blowing bubbles is a basic swimming skill because it teaches children, in an entertaining way, that they need to hold or breathe outward when underwater. When in the water, encourage your child to place his face a little below the surface of the water and blow outward to make bubbles, and then rise for air when he can’t make bubbles anymore. Your child might be cautious in placing his whole face in the water. If so, try statements that encourage the action, such as “Can you see that fish at the bottom of the pool?” Once he’s comfortable, initiate the bubble-blowing activity.
Join a Parent-Tot Swimming Class
Parent-tot swimming classes can teach your tot how to have fun in the water, develop positive attitudes about being in the water, and teach her basic safety and comfort skills, such as wearing flotation devices and holding her nose. These classes should be taught by certified instructors. Most children at the toddler level are extremely attached to their parent and are reluctant to be handled by this instructor. You need to be present in an active way, holding on to your child, providing encouragement and taking place in activities.
When engaging in swimming activities alone or in a class with your tot, encourage enthusiasm because your tot will likely enjoy swimming activities when he sees you enjoying them. Stay positive when he performs an action incorrectly so that he doesn’t get discouraged. Try statements such as “That was wonderful! Let’s try keeping our head a little more out of the water when we make bubbles. Let’s try again!” Lastly, acknowledge and heed your tot’s fears. Never force him to do any activity that frightens him.