National Learn to Swim Day will be celebrated this year on Saturday, May 16.
Founded by Virginia Beach-based Swimways Corporation in 2012, National Learn to Swim Day is held on the third Saturday of May each year and provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of water safety and teaching children to swim as pools open across the U.S. for summer. The Hampton Roads region is surrounded by water, so learning to swim is a priority.
Teaching your child to swim can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Read on for five tips to prepare for your child’s first time in the pool:
1) Never leave your child unattended in or around water. It’s important to always be at your child’s side when she is learning to swim, and as swimming skills progress always supervise your child and remind them never to swim without the permission and supervision of an adult. Learning to swim at an early age is a great way to teach your child about water safety and instill good habits in and around the water. Your safe practices will leave an impression on your child and set her up for future swimming success.
2) Take advantage of your child’s first time in the pool and make it a bonding experience. It’s an opportunity to get closer to your child while making him feel comfortable as he explores this new environment with you. Let your child know he is safe by being at his side, talk to him and interact with him. It’s a time to focus on your child one-on-one without everyday distractions.
3) Make your child’s first time in the water fun. It’s a new sensory experience, so let your child splash and feel the water. Help her embrace her new surroundings so she feels comfortable. According to former U.S. Coastguard helicopter rescue swimmer and instructor, Mario Vittone, “Early childhood experiences in the pool should be fun and easy. Your toddler doesn’t need to swim on their own or learn to float on their first (or even tenth) day in the pool. What they need is to feel secure, to have fun, and to learn to enjoy the water.”
4) Parents and guardians often don’t realize that their own apprehension of the water can impact their children. It’s important for adults to feel comfortable themselves before they introduce their children to the pool. Vittone states that “Children pick up on your apprehension of water first. If you aren’t a good swimmer and it doesn’t look like you are having fun, it’s going to be hard to convince your child that they should get in there with you.” This means that it’s important to address your fear of water first to ensure your child’s first time in the pool is a positive experience. Your reaction is important, so try not to panic or become visually upset if your child accidently splashes his face. If you’re a non-swimming adult it’s never too late to learn to swim. Contact one of the many recreation centers or YMCA locations in the Hampton Roads area and ask about adult swim lessons – remember that you are not alone.
5) If having an expert on-hand will make you more comfortable when you introduce your child to the pool for the first time, consider baby swim lessons. Virginia Beach Parks & Rec hosts Tiny Bobbers group swim lessons for children ages 1-3. During these swim lessons, parents and guardians provide support and comfort as their child learns about water safety and develops beginning swimming skills through engaging activities and songs.
For more information and learn to swim resources visit www.teachmetoswim.com and watch the Swim Steps video series on YouTube, narrated by water safety expert Mario Vittone, for more tips.