Tips on teaching your child to swim - Part 2: Practicing at home.

As promised in yesterday's blog, here are some time-tested and mother-approved tips for learning to swim that you can practice with your child in the bathtub or the pool. Have something to add to the list? Comment below. Enjoy!

1.     Blow bubbles. If your child can blow out a candle, she can blow bubbles. Tell her to blow in the water as if she is blowing on too-hot food. For older kids, sing “Happy Birthday” a few times, and lower the “candles” into the water a bit each time. Get a toy boat and ask her to blow it around the tub. Learning to blow bubbles easily and instinctively is key to being a confident swimmer. If you’re blowing air out, you’ll never inhale water in. We blow bubbles during every bath. I usually lean over into the bathtub, put my whole face in, and blow bubbles with my little boy. He thinks this is hilarious.

2.     Float. This one is easier if you get in the bathtub with your child. Cradle your child’s head so she feels secure and have her lie back. Some children like being able to lie over their parent’s legs. Even a short time on their backs (most children don’t love learning to float) is helpful. In the pool, I have my kiddos rest their heads on my shoulder, then stretch my arms underneath them to support them while they float. Don’t let go, even if they are basically floating on their own – this is about trust as much as anything. Older kids will enjoy pretending to be starfish and stretching their arms and legs into a star shape while they float and you sing “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

3.     Play with cups,watering cans, etc. Cups are the best bathtub toys. Pour that water over their heads. Get in the bath with them and let them pour water over your head. It’s always nice to have a phrase you use every single time (I use, “Graham, ready, go!”), so they will come to expect the water and usually close their eyes in preparation. It doesn’t take long for them to catch on – even when they are just a few months old – that when you say the ready-phrase, they close their eyes. For older toddlers, tell them they are flowers and when you water them, they’ll grow up big.

4.     Make spoon-hands, not forks. You wouldn’t eat soup with a fork, right? You wouldn’t paddle a boat with a pitchfork, right? Play pretend and have your kiddo make his hands in to spoons. Take scoops of imaginary icecream, soup, whatever. Then do arm circles with your spoon hands.

5.     Arm Circles. This is preparation for freestyle (crawl) arm strokes. The swim-team version of arm strokes is a bit more complex than the swim lesson version, but we stick to the idea of “arm circles” for simplicity.  I like to sing “Row, Row, Row your Boat” while moving my toddler’s hands in big circular motions through the air and the water. Have him “reach for the sky!”

6.     Kick, kick, kick. Kids LOVE to kick. Encourage straight legs and pointed toes. “Red Light/Green Light” is a classic for practicing kicks. In the tub, they can kick while sitting up, or they can roll over on their tummies and kick kick kick.