5 Great Ways to Encourage Your Child to Swim

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being able to swim where anyone is concerned, but especially so for children. We can’t be with them every moment of their waking day, so all we can do, as parents, is ensure that they have the necessary ‘life skills’ to minimise any danger they may encounter. Teaching children to swim is as important as teaching them how to safely cross a road, but what do you do if your child hates the water and the promise of all the sweets in the world won’t change their feelings?

You can rest assured that there are a good number of tried-and-tested ways you can change a reluctance to swim into a struggle to keep them out of the water. Here at Elite Marines, we meet many children who originally hated the water, but once they learn to swim, they change character almost overnight and gain tremendous self-confidence on the back of great personal achievement.

The number of drowning incidents in South Africa are frighteningly high

Stats courtesy of NSRI

  • Every year there are over 2,000 fatalities from drowning in South Africa.
  • Every year, over 600 children under the age of 16 die from drowning
  • 75% of children who drown in South Africa are aged under five
  • For every child that drowns, there are 10 near-fatal drowning incidents
  • For every child that dies from drowning, five are left with permanent brain damage

Much of the above is also underlined in our article on Why your child should take swimming lessons all year round as we cannot stress highly enough just how many lives are lost unnecessarily through drowning.

How to get your child to love the water – especially after a bad experience

When we are three or four years old, we are indestructible, and life is all about having fun, which is exactly what learning to swim should be. It may be your child fell in a pond and simply frightened themselves, they may have been knocked over by a wave at the beach or have accidentally choked on water in the bath – all can have a varying effect depending on the child. Some will see all these incidents as funny, others will find them scary. When looking at options to help your child learn to swim, patience is the order of the day if they have a strong aversion:

  • Underline that water is fun – whether playing in the bath or out in the garden, make water a fun element. Water pistols, playing around with the garden hose or introducing a small paddling pool can pave the way.
  • Social support – if your child sees other kids enjoying themselves either in or with water, any fear will naturally be overtaken by jealousy and a desire to join in – nobody likes feeling left out of things. Doing something with your friends always provides a greater sense of security.
  • Avoid repetition and regularity – this may sound as though we are going against what we feel is a core element of swimming instruction. However, here we are talking about a child who is very reluctant to go near the water to begin with. If you want your child to get comfortable again with going in the water, don’t take them to the local pool at the same time every day or week, especially if there is a strong reluctance to begin with as this will only help reinforce an unpleasant experience. Going to the local pool should not be something to dread days or hours beforehand. We can assure you that once your child finds water enjoyable again, they will be the ones dragging you off to the pool, not the other way around!
  • Don’t start with swimming lessons at the pool straight away. Once again make fun the order of the day. Go to the pool with your child, and ensure they have good buoyancy aids. Show them how much fun you are having, especially submerging yourself and reappearing with a smile. Play with pool noodles or a ball to distract your child from the fact they are actually learning to ‘swim’ while they are having fun.
  • Often, letting someone else teach your child can do the trick, especially if they are used to helping children with a genuine reluctance to learning to swim. Often a new environment and in the company of other children, starting afresh can be springboard your child needs.

If you are having problems getting your child to swim, our Discover program is perfect for you, especially if you live in or are staying in Durban, Queensburgh or Kloof in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Why not give us a call and we can tell you all about what we do here to help children develop a life-long love for water and swimming?