Swimming is the only sport that can save your child’s life, so it’s one worth taking seriously and starting relatively early helping them love swimming. It is also the gateway to many other water-based sports such as kayaking, surfing or rowing.
What’s more, water safety and swimming competence are part of the UK National Curriculum in schools. This means it’s also the law that your child should be able to confidently swim at least 25 metres. Rescuing themselves from a variety of water-based situations before they are old enough to leave primary school.
However, school budgetary constraints, exam pressures and fears over the lack of monitoring of school swimming programmes by Ofsted have led to concerns that an increasing number of British children cannot swim.
A 2017 Swim Group report found that almost one-third of (31 per cent) of Year 6 pupils would finish the summer term without being able to swim and that they lacked basic water safety knowledge. Worse, two-thirds of parents questioned were afraid their child would not be able to save themselves in water.
It means the onus is firmly on families to get their children proficient in the water. Learning to swim is also about developing an important life skill, building fitness, strength and flexibility and having fun. Another great thing about swimming is that children of any age or ability can have a go, making this an inclusive activity.
Get your child used to water before starting lessons
First off, there is no need to panic and sign your child up for swimming lessons at birth. The first step is to get your child comfortable in the water.
Start by getting your baby used to getting her face wet in the bath or paddling pool once she can sit up confidently on her own, at around six months. Gently squeeze a sponge or flannel over her head and let the (soap-free) water gently trickle down her face.
Encourage your child to mimic you by putting your face in the water and coming up with a smile, then start blowing bubbles in the water so she can see you enjoying getting your face wet.
Later, you can encourage your child to put her face in the water by showing her to close her mouth and hum to stop water shooting up her nose.
Help pre-schoolers prepare for formal swimming lessons by supporting them while they float and taking them for a splash about at the pool where they will be having lessons. Another good idea is to involve your child in getting things ready for lessons before they start, such as a picking out a new swimming costume and packing goggles and a towel.
Enrol your child in lessons at a local pool or club
Ok, this is an obvious one, but it’s a critical step in the process of getting your child waterborne. You can start lessons from any age but any time from four onwards is probably best. Look for lessons in your area, ask your friends and social media forums to recommend a good pool or instructor.
Consult Swim England’s Learn to Swim Framework and have a look at Learn to Swim stages 1 to 7, which will give you an idea of the key skills required for developing competency and enjoyment in the water. These include water entry and exit, floatation and balance, rotation and orientation and aquatic breathing.
Get your own pool
Having a pool at home clearly gives your child a massive head start in loving the water. Which in tern will help them learn to swim. Find a qualified swimming instructor who can bond with your kids and is willing to visit your home. They can watch them progress rapidly in the water.
You’ll also find that your child will become extremely popular at childcare or school! Having a pool is a boon in the summer and provides the perfect venue for a child’s birthday party.
Unless your home already had a pool when you moved in, you may want to consider having one built. Not just for your child’s benefit but for the whole family to enjoy. While you don’t generally need planning permission for an outdoor pool, you will need to follow building regulations. Think about pool covering, fencing or screening, or alarming a pool.
Whether you choose an outdoor pool or an indoor pool, it’s a big investment. How much does it cost to have your perfect swimming pool built? Here’s some useful information on that crucial point.
Join the Swim Safe summer programme
This programme is run by England’s swimming governing body Swim England, and provides free outdoor swim and water safety lessons with qualified instructors and trained volunteers. Children must be aged 7 to 14 and be able to swim at least 25 metres. Meaning parents or carers must stay for the whole session. The 60-minute sessions take place at 20 locations, including beaches, lakes and inland.
Introduce fun swimming activities for older kids
Once children enter secondary school, their enthusiasm for swimming can wane. Data from Swim England’s tracker found that young people over 12 often gave up regular swimming. While 15 to 17-year-olds viewed swimming as ‘a bit pointless’.
Water obstacle courses and outdoor inflatable water parks can mix things up a bit and keep older children engaged and excited by the water while also working on their technique.
Go swimming as a family
Finally, swimming is perfect family bonding time. It’s one of the few activities children of different ages usually enjoy without a TV screen, iPad or keyboard in sight.
Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson said swimming was one of the few activities families could do together across generations and all through their lives. “Time with your children, when they want to spend time with you rather than anyone else, is fleeting. We want to encourage parents to make the most of those precious years being connected and having fun together through the joy and elation felt in a pool,” she said. “We are reminding parents: don’t miss out on those magical years. Take them swimming, make the most of the passing moments. Not only give them a life skill and get them active, but create memories that last a lifetime.”
Until Next Time… Charlotte x