Tips For Teaching Toddlers To Swim

teaching kids/babies/toddlers to swimTips For Teaching Toddlers To Swim

Swimming Educator Reveals Kids Can Survive

Rita Goldberg can’t believe some people still teach kids to swim by proverbially throwing them in the water to see if they sink or swim instinctively.

“Many parents and even some traumatic swim programs still use that ancient and ridiculous method of introducing children to swimming by throwing them into the water without any knowledge about swimming whatsoever – and all they are doing is teaching their children how to be terrified of the water,” said Goldberg, a former national swimmer in Great Britain, owner of a swimming school and author of the children’s book I Love to Swim (www.ilovetoswimthebook.com). “These advocates claim they are teaching survival, but I believe teaching survival can be – and should be – gentle and fun.”

Goldberg’s lament is that too many children drown needlessly every year, and too many parents are either resistant to teaching their toddlers to swim, or teach them the wrong way.

“No child, and I mean no child, has to ever drown in a swimming pool again if they are taught how to survive in the water the right way and at the earliest possible age,” she added. “Drowning is actually the second leading cause of accidental death in the country. It is leading in Florida and a few other states, and the real tragedy is that most every child who drowns could have been saved by simply being taught to swim correctly. Traumatizing them only teaches them to fear the water, and who among us makes the best choices, or can even process calm thought, when we are afraid? Children are no different. They need to be given the tools to survival and draw their confidence in the water from that knowledge. We want kids to respect the water, not fear it.”

Goldberg’s tips for teaching kids to swim include:

  • Start Young — New studies show that the best age to teach a child to swim is between the ages of six and twelve months. Just as parents are learning this is a good time to teach children how to read, they are beginning to understand this is a time when children are able to absorb information like sponges. Teaching them to swim at this early age is a great way to make swimming second nature to them.
  • Float to Survive – As a supplement to safeguarding your kids through extra vigilant supervision and a safety gate around the pool, focus on giving your child the best lifesaving tool you could offer them – the ability to survive in the water. The first gift I give children when I teach them is the ability to float on their backs. This is the most important survival skill of all. This enables all swimmers to rest, breathe and call for help, thus alleviating the “silent” danger of floating face down.
  • Gentle and Fun – Swimming will come more naturally to children who are taught gently, without trauma, and with a sense of fun. You cannot teach a 2-year-old not to go near the swimming pool. You cannot teach them that the pool is dangerous. Parents see the swimming pool as a potential death trap for their kids, but all kids see is a big, wet playground. You’re not going to change their opinion, so stop trying. Focus on calm, gentle fun, and your kids will take to their lessons like fish to water.

“Parents need to understand that playing in a swimming pool is the same as playing on dry land to children,” she added. “It’s all play to them. While it’s important for them to feel confident in the water, we need to help temper that confidence with a strong sense of safety and good judgment. Adhering to those rules as parents will serve to reinforce those rules, however, the best way to pull it all together is to start them young. Once both swimming and safety are second nature to them, they’ll be safer and your supervision of them in the water will be more fun for everyone.

Establishing A Routine

Establishing a Routine for Your BabyEstablishing A Routine For Your Baby

Some people cringe at the thought of establishing a routine for a newborn, thinking that it is not a reasonable thing for an infant to follow. This may be true for schedules, where you fit your baby to a clock, but not a routine. Babies, live adults, thrive on a routine and it helps parents in many, many ways. The important thing to remember with your routine is that is has to remain FLEXIBLE.  Setting up a rigid schedule that your baby must follow to the minute is not acceptable or fair to your baby (and will make your life more miserable).

The easiest routine we have found to follow is Tracy Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY is an acronym for a predictable sequence of events the pretty much mirrors adult lives. Eat, have some Activity, go to Sleep, then have time for You. This is a routine (not a schedule) that keeps the day structured and predictable, helps parents learn their babies ways of communicating, and prevents the forming of some bad habits (like feeding your baby to sleep). We suggest starting on this routine from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. The routine is only a daytime routine. During the night, there should be no activity period (not even a diaper change unless you know the diaper has poop in it or the diaper is leaking). At night, if your baby wakes from hunger, feed him them put him right back to sleep.

Newborn to four month old babies should be on a three hour routine (eating every three hours) and at four months babies are ready to move to a four hour routine (this is assuming a baby was not premature, is of average healthy weight and has no health problems). Establishing a routine is easier the younger the baby, so start right away and your baby will naturally and easily move from the three to four hour routine-probably even on her own.

A Routine That Works for Parents AND Baby

Tracy Hogg’s years of experience implementing the EASY routine with families, resulted in babies’ lives that were predictable and calm, which led them to be “good eaters, they learned to play independently for increasingly longer periods and they could get themelves to sleep without sucking on a bottle or breast or being rocked by their parents. As many of these babies grew into toddlers and preschoolers, they were also confident in themselves and trusted that their parents would be there if they needed them. The parents themselves learned early on to tune in to their child’s cues by carefully observing their body language and listening to their cries. Because they could “read” their child, they felt better equipped to deal with any bumps in the road.”

“With EASY, you don’t follow the baby, you take charge. You observe him carefully, tune in to his cues, but you take the lead, gently encouraging him to follow what you know will make him thrive: eating, appropriate levels of activity, and a good sleep afterward. You are your baby’s guide. You set the pace. EASY gives parents, especially first-timers, the confidence to know that they understand their baby, because they more quickly learn to distinguish their baby’s cries.”

Write It Down to Help Stick To The Routine

The most important thing you can do to keep on your routine, especially in the beginning or during periods of change, is to write everything down. Write down what time your baby eats, how long of on activity period you had, what time she went to sleep and when she woke up. This helps you remember what times things occurred (because your lack-of-sleep brain isn’t as good at remembering on its own) and helps you recognize patterns (good and bad). Writing it all down gives you the perspective of an entire day (or week).

Some of the things you might want to write down or log would be:

Eat-Time, How much (if bottle)/how long (if breast), Right or Left breast

Activity-What, How long

Sleep-How long

You-What you did for yourself (taking naps when your baby is napping is the best way to spend your “You” time in the beginning)

The Most Important Thing To Remember

It is so important to remember that this is a flexible, structured routine, NOT a schedule. Your baby will likely vary a little from day to day on when she is hungry or tired (usually only by 15-30 minutes) and that is ok. If your baby is hungry, feed her, even if it is before the “time” on your routine. When your baby starts showing signs of getting tired, put her to bed. Instead of focusing on the clock, focus on your baby. Look for signs of hunger, sleepiness and overstimulation. “The better you get at interpreting your baby’s cries and body language, the better you’ll be at guiding him and at clearing whatever obstacles get in the way.”

A Typical EASY Day for a 4 Week Old (as outlined in Tracy’s book)

E-7:00 am Feed

A-7:45 Diaper change, some playing and talking; watch cues for sleepiness

S-8:15 Swaddle and lay your baby in the crib. It may take him 15-20 minutes to fall asleep for his 1st morning nap.

Y-8:30 You nap when he naps

E-10:00 Feed

A-10:45 See 7:45 above

S-11:15 2nd morning nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-1:00 Feed

A-1:45 See 7:45 above

S-2:15 Afternoon nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-4:00 Feed

A-4:45 See 7:45 above

S-5:15 Catnap for 40-50 minutes to give him enough rest to handle his bath.

Y-5:30 Do something nice for yourself.

E-6:00 1st Cluster feed

A-7:00 Bath, into jammies, lullaby or other bedtime ritual

S-7:30 Another catnap

Y-7:30 You eat dinner

E-8:00 2nd cluster feed

A-None

S-Put him straight back to bed

Y-Enjoy your short evening

E-10-11 Dream feed and cross your fingers ’til morning!

“NOTE: Whether a baby is breast or bottle fed, I advise the above routine–allowing for variations in times–until 4 months old. The “A” time will be shorter for younger babies, and get progressively longer for older ones. I also recommend turning the two “cluster feeds” into one (at around 5:30 or ) by 8 weeks. Continue to dream feed until 7 months–unless he’s a great sleeper and makes it through on his own.”

From Our Experience

As activity time gets longer and more involved, it is necessary to have an adequate wind-down ritual to prepare your baby for sleep. It is not easy for her to go right from playing to sleeping. She has to have time to settle down and get in sleep mode. Be sure to do the same things every time before bed (swaddle, read books, sing a lullaby, sit in the chair, etc). If your baby is extra fussy when you try to put her to sleep, you might need to spend a few more minutes in your wind-down. And, enjoy this time! The time to cuddle and snuggle your baby is irreplaceable!

To read all about Tracy Hogg’s Sleep Methods and to hear many case studies, check out her incredible books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

Recommended Reading

To read more about the EASY Routine, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems