It’s that time of year again, when kids are itching to hit the pool and parents are hunting down swimsuits, digging for goggles, and quite possibly wondering, “how in the world do I get my kid swim ready?” Well I am here to help. And believe me, after five months of schlepping the equipment of ski season, swim season is a cinch!
The first and most important things to know is that you have to make learning to swim a priority.! No matter how great you are as a parent or how closely you watch your child at the pool, bad things can happen right under your nose. For example, I was chatting with my friend in the baby pool when Spider was 1, sitting down right next to him. I glanced at my friend while she was talking for what felt like 3 seconds, but when I looked down at my son, he was face down in the pool…he hadn’t yet figured out how to pull his feet/legs back under him to stand up. He and I were both freaked. So remember, it doesn’t matter how well YOU swim, it’s how well your child swims without you that’s important. Get them in lessons first and foremost!
Here are seven things to help you have a fun and enjoyable swim season:
- Find a lesson and instructor that you trust and that works for your family. Check out usaswimming.org. As I have said about a million times to anyone that will listen….Take your child to swim lessons with a calm and happy demeanor. Even if they scream and cry, smile and tell them you love them. Hand them over to your trusted instructor, and then get out of sight. I cried every second of my first set of lessons! As a parent you cannot give in!
- Make a curriculum. If your child is beyond pool safety and you want them to learn to swim, set expectations with the instructor. Yes, it should be fun, but learning strokes can and should be a part of their curriculum.
- Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Repetition is key! The more days you swim in a row, the better you will become. Often if a kid hasn’t been in the water all winter, they will jump in the pool for the first time at the beginning of summer and “forget” what to do. Get them back into the swing of swimming with a one or two week long EVERY DAY series of lessons. These lessons don’t have to be long, maybe 20 minutes, but the repetition will be worth it.
- Keep a swim bag! You must create a swim bag with suit, cap (mostly for girls), goggles, towel, sunscreen, conditioner and lotion. To maintain the suit, rinse it out after every swim. Learn how to put your cap and goggles on properly. You find great instructions on use and correct fit on Speedo's Facebook page. Using conditioner helps keep hair from getting super brittle and tangled due to the water and chorine. And put on lotion, chlorine water dries your skin out like nothing else! If you don’t put lotion on, you will itch like crazy!
- Go for it. If you’re wondering whether or not your child is ready for a swim team, I say just GO FOR IT! I firmly believe that kids get better and learn faster in a group/team environment. Yes they are forced to swim more and practice is longer, but you will see such incredible improvements that lead to some serious confidence and smiles!
- Learn about the sport. Once your kid is on the swim team, you need to learn about the strokes and their times. The greatest part of swimming is that it is all time based. Therefore the kids can focus on their own PR’s as opposed to what color ribbon they won!
- Celebrate a competitive attitude! If you child is bummed they didn’t win, I think that is fantastic. You can help them learn that winning isn’t all that’s important, about effort and determination and commitment. Use the disappointment as a way to teach them about ways they can improve for themselves and be faster. If they are a sore loser, use the moment to teach that is not acceptable behavior and redirect them. The joy of an individual sport is that the outcome is in their hands.