In our last blog, we talked about the importance of getting your child to be comfortable with water on their face and all the fun games you could play to inspire them to fully submerge. While putting one's face under water remains the prerequisite to front floating, you can start practicing some crucial water safety skills at home even if your child is not fully submerging just yet.
We know, we know – being in your living room is nothing like being in the pool– still, practicing certain movements over and over again builds the crucial muscle memory. For example, developing an instinct to “grip and hold” for safety can be practiced and reinforced on dry land. Thus, in this blog, we will present three fun at-home exercises that can greatly contribute to expanding your child's toolbox of safety skills. Let's dive in!
The exercises are presented by Louise and Mike in the video below and you can find the full write up on all of them further down. These exercises can be performed even with much younger children, but they will simply need more of your guidance.
Although it might appear silly, this exercise is in fact quite essential in developing a child’s reflex to identify the closest space of safety. In case of an accident where a child might unintentionally fall into a pool, a child might have the tendency to simply keep swimming forward. However, the most accessible edge is usually the one right behind a child; this is why, “looking back” is an essential safety tool.
The activity consists of you placing a stuffed animal at a (coffee) table behind a child and asking them to keep their eyes closed. Then, ask them to play peek-a-boo with the toy! The child will open their eyes and look back. At this time, they can perform tiger arms to show they are swimming to the toy and then grip to the table or they can crawl to the toy if they are not walking yer. Even if a child is not ‘hanging’ off the table, the exercise is still worthwhile! As they grip, they will move across the edge of the table until they reach a point where you might have placed another stuffed animal. We call this move “monkey-monkey” at Red Whale. After reaching the second animal, they can give them a hug and play with them. You can repeat this exercise as many times as your child finds it entertaining!
2. Elbow-elbow, knee-knee
Gripping to the edge of the pool (or to a parent’s shirt) is an important instinct a child should have. Moreover, they would then ideally be able to get out of the pool all on their own as well. Hoisting themselves up might be challenging for a child, which is why practicing the elbow-elbow, knee-knee technique is so helpful.
The set up could be a couch or a low table with some cushions. For safety reasons, have one parent on each side of the child. The child will then place one elbow on the cushions, followed by the other; they will then prop the tummy up on the cushion and lastly put up their knees one at a time. At this point a child can stand up on the ‘edge of the pool’.
3. Roll over
Remembering to look back for safety, grip the edge of the pool and get out of the pool are the holy grail of water safety exercises. However, how a child gets to the edge of the pool (even if it does not appear that far) is paramount.
The easiest position to float in is the starfish position – with a child fully relaxed on their back with both their arms and legs extended and spread out next to their body. This position is so central to water safety because a child can hold it the longest – it involves them having their face out of the water and breathing continuously.
**NB: A face out of the water does not mean head out of the water. On the contrary, for a child to float well, their ears need to be in the water, their chin pointed up (looking at the ceiling) and they need to have a tolerance of having a few water droplets on their face.
To get to the starfish on the back, a child will practice roll over. At home, this simply involves your child starting off on the tummy – you can help manipulate their legs so that they are kicking. Then, on a signal, they should roll over and take the position of a starfish. Remind them to take a deep breath in and then they can roll over to their tummy, where they can again perform tiger or pizza arms. Doing a few of these is a great way to get your child used to the roll over movement in the water.
We hope you find these exercises exciting to try out with your child! We are always happy to hear from, so if you happen to try these out, let us know what you think by sending us an email!