Why Children Must Put Their Face in the Water

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At Little Fishes, we help each child become comfortable in water without flotation devices, put their face in the water without fear, float face-down on top of the water, and move their arms and legs forward for locomotion—the steps needed to swim. For independent swimming, the most important of these steps is the prone position or floating on one’s belly with face in the water and looking down. On your stomach, when chin is tucked your feet naturally float up to the surface. When you lift your head your feet drop down, creating drag and slowing forward motion. This is why dog-paddlers tire easily, and can become panicked by fatigue, splashing and sink when they stop moving.

To be comfortable in the prone position, first a child must be comfortable standing and walking in the water getting used to the buoyancy, which is a much different feeling than when moving through air.

Then they must be comfortable with their face in the water. This step requires patience, persistence and repetition. At Little Fishes we work on blowing bubbles so they are able to underwater without drinking or choking. We get them used to the sensation (pressure) of water on their ears.  We focus on the eyes by looking or picking up toys that are submerged in the water. And finally, we continue work on the prone body position by raising their feet to the top of the water and kick creating big splashes.

Tips for practicing at home:

  1. Practice bubbles by blowing through a straw. You can have them blow into different liquids to see the different bubbles they can create. You can progressively cut the straw smaller until their lips are touching the liquid. In the tub, you can use a tub toy mirror held in front of submerged lips.
  2. Have children lay back in the tub until their ears are submerged. You can sing a song and have them listen for how different it sounds from under water.
  3. Put objects on the bottom of the tub, and have them practice being on their tummy in the water and picking them up. Have them wear goggles if it helps them feel more comfortable. Then raise the level of the water so they can learn to let buoyancy of the water help support them.
  4. Have children lay on their back as you fill the tub so they can feel how the rising water lifts their body.

Learning to swim is an important life skill that takes patience and practice.