Swimming with your toddler is an enjoyable way to help build your toddler's confidence in the water while he gets exercise and has fun. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children aren't ready for formal swimming instruction as part of a larger class until they're about 4 years old. However, teaching your child proper movement and body position in the water, even if it's just basic floating and doing the doggy paddle, helps improve water survival skills.
Learning how to move water with his feet and legs will eventually help stabilize his lower body on the surface of the water. A young toddler can hang on to the side of the pool while you encourage him to make big splashes with his feet and legs, suggests the American Red Cross. Practice "sky kicking" by resting your tyke's head on your shoulder while he practices puffing out his belly and kicking his legs toward the sky. As he gets more confident in the water, let him hold your hands while kicking on his front.
Learning to splash and jump in the water can help your toddler feel more comfortable getting water on her face and eyes. Have your toddler sit on the edge and count to three before letting her "jump," as you securely hold her hands and guide her into the water. Always hold her hands tightly so you're in complete control of her depth and avoid letting her go under the water -- unless that's something she's comfortable with. A younger toddler can enjoy being lifted high above your head and lowered into the pool while still in the safety of your arms.
Learning breath control is something you can do with even a very young toddler. Show your tot how to blow bubbles by putting his face -- or at least his mouth -- underwater and make bubbles together. Blowing bubbles gives your toddler practice at blowing air out of his lungs when his mouth is under the water, which prevents him from inhaling water. An older toddler can practice kicking while holding on to your hands and periodically putting his face in the water.
Reach and Pull
As your toddler becomes more comfortable and confident in the water, she can practice pulling and reaching for floating toys a few inches away by moving one of her arms in a doggy paddle while holding on to your outstretched hand with the other. Learning arm circles and scooping movements will eventually help her to keep her torso on the surface and her head above the water. Mastering the motions of the doggy paddle is the foundation for learning swimming strokes in the future, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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