Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Water Readiness

Photo credit: Adlib Photography 

Gearing up for summer involves a lot of planning. Preparing for schedule changes, planning vacations, and registering for camps are just a few things families have to do to prepare for summer break. In all the planning and excitement something that should not be overlooked is preparing your family for a safe summer in the water.

For many kids it’s been months since they last went swimming.  Whether you are planning your summer vacation or for days at the neighborhood pool, it’s important to give attention to ensuring your child is safe in the water this season.

Focus on your child’s current swimming ability.

Many parents gage their child’s swimming ability based on the last time she spent quality time in the water. It’s not uncommon for kids to have a hiatus from swimming during the school year. The break from the water often causes kids to regress in swimming confidence and skills they honed during the previous summer months.

Don’t make assumptions that your child will swim at the same level or better than she did last summer. It’s important to evaluate how well your child manages herself in the water right now, versus how well you remember she swam last summer.

Use the pre-season as a time to establish swimming rules.

There are some simple activities you can do to determine how skilled your child is in the water. It’s important to evaluate your child’s swimming ability each time you go swimming.
The beginning of the summer is the perfect time to establish and prepare your family for the swimming rules and routine that you will follow. Effective rules and rituals will help kids have appropriate boundaries around the water and promote safety.

First things first, ask permission.

A good foundation for water safety is to have children as before entering the water. Sometimes children are not the best at determining what water is safe for them. If your child asks to enter the water, you can survey that it is safe and ensure that you are ready to watch your child in the water.

The habit of your child asking permission every time she enters the water, even when returning to the water from a bathroom or lunch break, will help you as be prepared to watch your child every time she enters the water.

Slow it down.

The excitement of swimming can cause kids to be impulsive and risky around the water. Teach your toddler to count slowly to three each time before he jumps in the water. The time it takes to count, “1 - 2 - 3” will give you the opportunity to judge whether or not it is an appropriate time and place for him to jump in the water.

As your child grows older, reinforce the need to pause and assess the water before jumping in.

Establish a ritual of testing your child’s swimming ability, even in familiar water.

The pool can be a very relaxing place. Don’t get too comfortable too quickly, though. Take the first 5-10 minutes of swim time to get acquainted with the water and have your child demonstrate his ability to safely exit the water. Evaluating your child’s swimming capabilities doesn’t have to be a daunting task, but it does need to be a consistent part of the swimming experience. Even if you are returning to a familiar pool, or if you are somewhere you feel comfortable, make it part of your routine to ‘test’ your child in the water.  

The most important skill you are measuring is your child’s ability to get in and out of the water. Make the beginning of swim time a game of “in and out” activities that demonstrate your child’s ability in the water and his ability to get out of the water safely.

Activities should be based on your child’s swimming ability and area where he will be swimming. If your child is going to swim in various areas, be sure to test him in each area.

Examples of In-and-Out Activities.

  • Jump in the pool and return to the side
  • Jump off the diving board and swim to the wall
  • Slide down the slide and swim to the ladder
  • Enter and exit the Lazy River

Have fun.

Setting water rituals and rules for your family this summer doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it a fun habit for your family to be prepared and safe in the water this season.