Dry Practice at Home Boosts Swimming Skills
Each week we love hearing parents' stories about how excited their little fishes are to come to class, and we love seeing their faces light up when they master a new skill, like swimming under water or standing on the island unassisted. Learning to swim it is an exciting time for both parent and child! And there are many activities parents can do with their children at home, and on dry land, that can help them as they work towards water independence. Here are a few activities to help your little fish that you can do while watching TV, eating dinner or even waiting in line at the grocery store that will help them build on the four essential skills we teach in class.
- Developing Kicking Coordination: Being able to kick their feet helps a child propel themselves underwater, and eventually paddle to keep their head above water. While sitting on the couch hold your child on your knees and encourage them to "kick, kick, kick!" their feet. You can also practice this skill with balls and while swinging. By saying the words and assisting them with the action, it won't take long before they understand how to move those legs in the water.
- Developing Arm Movement: While in class we teach our children the proper way to move your arms while swimming by "stirring the stew", or move the water in front of them by placing their hands in front and pushing the water behind them in a circular motion. In the beginning many children will start the movement backwards, by holding their hands straight out to their sides and bringing them together as if they were reaching for a hug. You can help develop proper arm movement by helping them to stir the stew any time, anywhere by holding their hands straight in front of them and guiding their arms open and towards the back.
- Developing Jumping Skills: Some new parents are surprised to find that their children are hesitant, or unable to jump into the water. Jumping is a skill that requires some coordination and practice, and one we practice each week with our swimmers who are able to walk. Then when they get on dry land they are being told not to jump-this can be very confusing for our enthusiastic fishes. We recommend parents closely monitor their child and allow them to jump off of low surfaces to start becoming more comfortable with the feeling that accompanies jumping into the water. You could assist them with jumping off the couch, or bed or even a low stool.
- Developing Breathing Skills: Blowing bubbles is an important water safety skill that focuses on helping a child learn to control their breath-a key to swimming. We ask our students to blow bubbles every chance they get, and we must say they love it. To develop their bubbles and breath control, give your children the opportunity to practice at home using a straw and milk, which creates big visible bubbles that stick around. Another great technique is letting them have fun blowing bubbles with solution and wands.
These extension activities are great ways to develop some of the most important skills needed to teach children to swim-no water needed!