Did you know National Learn How to Swim Day is May 16? For kids, learning how to swim and practicing those swimming skills is important for keeping them safe in the pool. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids as young as 1 can safely start learning how to swim, although they recommend formal swim lessons to start around age 4.
Whether or not your kids have taken swim lessons, there are plenty of fun ways you can help your kids practice important swimming skills right in your own backyard.
1. Practice Getting Out of the Pool
Over time, your kids will learn how to get in and out of your own home pool quickly and easily. But you want to make sure they’re able to perform the same skill when visiting other pools. Encourage your kids to practice exiting the pool in different ways and different areas—for example, pulling themselves out on the side using their arms or swinging a leg onto the ground. With older kids, you can make a game out of it: periodically shout “fish out of water!” and have your kids get out of the pool from wherever they are to see who’s the fastest fish.
2. Back Floating
This is one of the most important skills young swimmers can learn. Swimming becomes difficult when you get tired. Have your kids practice floating on their backs and using easy arm motions to go from the middle of the pool to the side.
3. Learning to Kick
There’s a reason professional swimming instructors start with kicking. Kids have a natural tendency to bend their knees when kicking. But when swimming, it’s important to keep legs straight and toes pointed to propel you forward. Have your kids practice good kicking skills by floating on their stomach (you can support them with your hands) and practice straight leg kicks. You can even do this one out of the pool, laying on the ground or even in your living room.
4. Holding Breath Underwater
For kids to be active swimmers, they need to learn to hold their breath underwater without breathing water in. With young or anxious kids, you can practice this first out of the water. Have them hold their breath for a few seconds at a time and gradually work your way up. When they’re comfortable, you can repeat this underwater. And as they get more comfortable, you can incorporate games like having them dive for pool toys.
5. Windmill Arms
Windmills help with range of motion and muscle memory in the pool, essential skills as kids learn how to propel themselves forward. While standing up:
6. Jumping Into the Pool
This can be scary for young kids just learning how to swim, so you’ll want to take it slow. Start in a shallow area and make sure you’re within arms’ reach to scoop them up. As they gain confidence, you can slowly step back and have them swim to you or swim back to the side of the pool.
The most important thing when helping your kids practice swimming skills is to make it fun and safe! The more comfortable your kids become with the pool, the more confidence they’ll gain in their swimming skills—and the more fun they’ll be able to have.