Summer brings outdoors and ready to play in the water, and as moms we are filled with excitement and worry as our little ones start becoming more interested in water and water-related activities.
As your little one wanders to a pool, take into mind the level of comfort they have with water. If they are scared of any water, some easing will be needed by just gently playing and establishing a comfort of sitting in water. Splash pads are great for kids who are better suited to water-adjacent play.
Simple squirt toys, water guns, dive rings and rockets may help a braver little one reach and feel the water on shallow steps without having to get their face wet. Often, the use of goggles can help younger kids establish comfort with water coming over their face and learning to hold their breath a bit without getting water in their eyes.
Reaching for dive rings brings pride in retrieving something from the “deep” bottom and brings the face a bit closer to the water and their fear, along with helping improve swim skills. You can put diving toys on the shallowest steps and move them down as your toddler gets good at retrieving them. Resist the urge to help or give advice as they figure out how to get to their toy--problem solving is part of the fun!
You can use a cup or toy to pour water on their hands, arms, shoulder chest and slowly warming up closer to the face until they are comfortable with water getting on their face. My favorite thing to teach comfort is show them how they can “float” by laying their head on my shoulder and supporting their body in a backfloat. Back floats help release stress and teach kids to rest safely in the water until their energy returns for another swim. I make sure my kids don't have water in their ears until they are comfortable and we sing a song they like while moving to keep the water flowing around them.
For little ones who are less afraid, having them work on making big splashes with their feet in kicking, learning to sing songs as they are held and glided across the water and blowing bubbles or having a small cup of water poured over their eyes helps to push the boundaries of comfort.
For braver toddlers, teaching them to glide independant from the steps to mom or dad is a huge leap in water safety. Teaching them to monkey walk or hand over hand movement along the edge of the pool can lead them to a shallow area and is a fun game to play with younger children, teaching how to take a break and rest while still swimming.
Some kids aren’t comfortable with splash pads since the water gets in their eyes and its too splashy. Bringing a bucket they can fill from the fountains and then dump out allows them to have a “job” and control the level of splash they receive. Most kids are so busy filling and dumping they don't worry as much as about the jets and water near them as they focus on the fun.
Teaching little ones to be comfortable in the water can bring so much joy to both kids and parents. As a mom and swim instructor, nothing brings me more joy than seeing the sheer joy kids have when they discover they have control over the water and their bodies.
Pia Watzig is a stay at home mom in Portland, Oregon. She swims and loves all water activities with her three boys ages 7, 5 and 2.