How to Encourage Your Child to Learn How to Swim: Advice from the Experts in Rockland County, NY
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The most important thing is to let the children know that it's okay to be afraid, and that they will always be safe with you."
-Tammy Jones, aquatic director, Champion Day Camp, New City
"As children feel more comfortable around water, it becomes easier to introduce them to swim instruction. So I encourage parents to make the water an enjoyable experience; minimize a child's fears by playing together and being supportive and gentle. Use games and toys to encourage a child's interest level around the water. The more that holds his attention, the more likely he is to participate. And address a child's physical comfort as well as his emotional comfort: Keep water temperature warm (you can use a solar cover at home to help). These things will help a reluctant child transition more easily into the water. In our camp, where activities are geared to younger children (ages 2-6), we have a pool that is shallow enough to allow children to walk and feel the bottom, which gives them a feeling of safety and helps to build confidence."
-Gail Doroff, owner and director, Robin Hill School & Camp, Suffern
"The road to success is based upon patience and persistence. Be supportive and understanding. Remember to minimize the reaction to any issues that might be used as an excuse to not participate, and adapt to your child's needs to keep him or her involved. Some examples: For someone who complains of the cold, keep him constantly moving, especially kicking, to warm that engine! There are also thin wet-suit tops with short sleeves that can help warm a child up. If a child can't stand water in her nose, encourage her to blow lots of bubbles in the bath or the pool, starting just before her face breaks the surface of the water, so she gets comfortable. For unwanted water in the eyes, reassure a child that it is ok to open his eyes under water, and make it a game to see how long she can keep them open at a time. It's all about reassurance and helping the child feel more comfortable.
If your child is scared of heading into a formal lesson environment, it can help to join a class with another child he already knows. Request to visit the pool before the first lesson, to have a trial class, and keep yourself visible to minimize separation anxiety. It is well worth searching for a program that teaches with lots of training tools, and one that has the ability to isolate the various components of the whole stroke.
Remember to be positive and provide rewards for simply participating."
-Jack Muchnick, director, Hudson Valley Aquatics, Suffern
Also see more advice from experts in your area.