Whatever the reason may be, missing swimming classes is never fun and can sometimes make parents fearful that their child is losing their hard-earned skills. The good news is that some of the fundamental swimming skills, such as full head submersion and a strong flutter kick can also be practiced inside the comfort of your own home!
Through this blog, we will explore why these skills are crucial to becoming a confident swimmer and how to help your child develop them. Let’s dive in!
1. BATH TIME – A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE SUBMERSION
Putting one’s face in the water is a prerequisite for swimming. How so?
Unlike adults, children do not have the strength to propel themselves through water with their head held up. Keeping their head out of the water puts a child in a vertical position, which makes them sink. In other words, children must be able to put their head in the water to float on their stomach, and they must be able to float in order to swim. Thus, the equation is quite simple:
NO HEAD IN THE WATER = NO SWIMMING.
As it is much easier for children to learn how to submerge when they are young, we recommend practicing this skill every night during bath time.
The conditioning process for babies and toddlers who are under 18 months old has the goal of teaching children to hold their breath on command so they can be safely submerged. The activity simply consists of pouring water over your child’s head. The response that you are looking for is a closed mouth. It always helps to cue the ‘performance’ with clear words of instruction: “Jessica, ready, go!” As your child grows comfortable with the sensation, increase the amount of water. This process can start from birth and continue until children are comfortably submerging by themselves.
For an example, see an instructional video here:
When children are older and understand the instructions and stand upright in the bath without the risk of falling, putting the head under water becomes a voluntary action by the child, rather than a parent-led exercise. The activity consists of a child lying on their tummy in the bath and submerging their face for as long as possible. It is good to work up to both ears being in the water and the chin on the chest. Blowing bubbles is optional, but not essential - no need to overcomplicate the task. What is important is that the child is slowly extending the amount of time they spend submerged. For children who are uncomfortable having their face in the water, putting something on their forehead (like a sticker) and asking them to wet it might do the trick.
For an example, watch Louise and Mike practice face submersion in a bath:
Safety Note: Please remember that parents should never leave children unattended in a bath.
2. PRACTICE FLUTTER KICKS WHILE WATCHING CARTOONS– WHO SAID KIDS COULDN’T MULTITASK
The front crawl and back crawl kicking action is called finning or flutter kicking. A strong and continuous flutter kick is a prerequisite for learning proper swim strokes. How come?
Unlike adults, children do not have the upper body strengths to propel themselves through water using their arms alone; thus, they must rely on a strong kick for propulsion, floating and balance. Once a child has a strong kick and a good body position in the water, they will pick up the arm action much quicker and easier.
Therefore, learning strokes is done in the following order:
• Body positions
A correct flutter kick includes: long and straight legs, pointy toes, and an up-and-down motion that starts at the hips. Repetition of the correct action (in or out of the water) will enhance the child’s muscle memory, making this movement automatic. Children can practice the motion by sitting on the couch or by lying down on their bed.
Keep in mind that when children kick faster, they often have a tendency to bend their knees – as if they were riding a bicycle. If you notice this, you can simply tell them to slow down and practice the correct movement with long and straight legs.
For children under the age of 3, who struggle to perform this movement by themselves, parents can help by manually manipulating their legs. You will simply want to hold your child’s feet or ankles and move them up and down. Once again, it helps to bind the performance to memorable words of instruction, such as “kick, kick, kick”. .
For an example, watch James, Archie and Louise perform the movement:
If done often, these two activities can help tremendously in maintaining your child’s swimming level and they only require a bath and a couch. In addition, these skills are such an important basis that you can continue practicing them even upon your return to the pool.
We hope you found these suggestions useful! If you end up trying one of these out, share a short video with us via email – we would love to keep up with your progress!