As the snow melts, and the leaves turn green, now is a good time to think about introducing your child to a swimming pool. Most accredited and certified water instruction agencies suggest waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old, so they are more likely to have proper head control and can regulate their own body temperature effectively. That is also enough time for your baby to build up a stronger immunity towards such things as pool chemicals and bacteria. Below are some tips that will help to make your child feel more comfortable, which in turn, improves their new experience.
Many people overlook how they enter the water with their child. This is very important to remember, especially because this is your child’s first experience being in a pool. Remember that everything is new for them. The water throws off their balance which they have been working to obtain for the past few months, as well as body position (that is, if your child is walking, swimming position means reverting back to a horizontal body position.) Entering the water slowly, either carrying them (often referred to as “heart to heart” position) or getting into the water before they do while the child sits on the side of the pool (often referred to as “face to face”) are the best ways to help facilitate a positive experience. (Make sure you never let go of your child if you choose the face to face entrance. Oftentimes, it’s best done with assistance from a spouse on the pool deck.)
Use Holding Techniques
You must position yourself in the water with your face at their level. Stooping into the water and submerging your shoulders will put you at eye level with your child. Do not hold them in a cradle position, or on your hip. Instead, try holding them under their arm pits in front of you. This allows them to feel the buoyancy of the water, and what it does to their body. If your child is a bit older, you can do a “tow technique” when they become a bit more comfortable. To “tow” your child, grasp their hands only and begin walking backwards. The forward movement for them, allows their body to float to the surface, and become more horizontal.
Follow Their Cues
Encourage getting different parts of their head wet without submerging them. Ease your child into it by dipping their chin in the water while you do the same. Encourage blowing bubbles enthusiastically. Then put your ear in the water, and see if they do the same. Children follow by example, and if they see you enjoying what you’re doing, they may be more apt to give it a try. Do not completely submerge your child unless they give you a cue that they are comfortable with it.
Use Toys and Encourage Game Play
We all know that children are motivated through games and play. Sing a silly song such as “The Wheels on the Bus” to get them comfortable. Bring their favorite bath toy from home, so they have a familiar toy to paddle and reach for. Reaching for toys that are thrown ahead of them a ways is great practice for stretching out in the water.
Limit Your Exposure
Even if your kiddo is having the time of their life, be aware that around 30 minutes is typically the length of time that a child can be in the water, without getting too chilled. Watch for signs that they may need a break, such as chattering teeth, fingers and toe nails turning a bluish color, or their lips turning a purple/blue color. Once you see these signs, it’s time for a lukewarm post pool shower, to wash off any chemicals that may irritate their sensitive skin.
Remember that being comfortable in the water may not happen overnight. Returning once or twice a week will quickly make pool time an enjoyable activity, for you and your baby.