Toddlers Ages 2-4

 

Children ages 2-4 are coordinated enough to begin learning how to swim with more complex movements. The steps taught here are a combination of Marla Bolling’s teachings and things that I learned as I taught swim lessons. Some general things that Marla suggests doing: First, you should always fully explain to the child what you are about to do. Second, use a countdown before doing the action, be sure that when you count down you always follow through. Lastly, don’t wear sunglasses, it’s better to be able to keep eye contact with the child to build a trust.

Playing on the Steps
Blowing Bubbles
Kicking
Picking up Toy from Stesp
Riding on Shoulders
Going Underwater
Holding the Wall and Getting Back to Steps
Getting Face Wet
Prone Glide to Steps
Prone Glide to Wall
Off the Side
Off the steps, Turnaround and Kick back to Steps

Playing on the Steps

Start by taking your child by the hand and taking them to the steps. Have them sit down and play, give them a toy if desired. This helps the child get accustomed to the water and explore the entire step area.

Blowing Bubbles

Have the child sit on the steps and show them you are taking a deep breath and blow bubbles. Then ask them if they can blow bubbles. They might need some encouragement but be patient. Some children don’t like putting their face near the water and it can be very scary.

Kicking

Sit down on the top step with the child and show them how to kick. Remember that you should kick with a relatively straight leg and your knees should only bend slightly. Use verbal cues like “kick, kick, kick”.

Picking up Toy from Steps

The goal of this is to get an object from underwater and helps prepare them to eventually put their face underwater. Marla suggests getting a toy that sinks; but I’ve found you usually don’t need this. You can use a watch, it’s more about the goal of getting the submerged object that is important to the child.

Riding on Shoulders

Letting your children ride on your shoulders helps them prepare to learn how to glide. It helps provide a break for the children because most children enjoy it. Always hold them and talk reassuringly to them as you pull them through chest-deep water.

Going Underwater

Be sure to use the 1-2-3 countdown. Have them take a deep breath and close their mouths. Lift them up and make your motions smooth so as not to startle them or get water up their nose. Marla suggests the “windshield wiper” approach to teach the children the proper way to get water out of their eyes. Tell the child that their fingers are wipers and they should wipe away water rather than rub it.

Holding the Wall and Getting Back to the Steps

This lets the child know that there is a safe place to go in case they accidently fall in. have them hold onto the wall away form the steps and place your hands on top of theirs to show them how to crawl hand-over-hand back to the steps. I always called this the “crab crawl” and we would have “crab races” where the kids could race each other; this was always a fun way to reinforce the lesson.

Getting Face Wet

First show the child how to retrieve the toy/object from the steps. This exercise teaches them deep breaths, closing their mouths and opening their eyes underwater. With this exercise especially you must be patient. This is perhaps the hardest things for children to learn how to do and it’s very scary. If you push or are impatient this only frustrates the child and makes an already skill even harder.

Back Float

This can also be a harrowing experience so be patient. One way to make this a little less scary is to try to make it fun. Marla suggests calling it “sleeping beauty” or “sleeping prince” for boys. Tell the child to use your shoulder as a pillow and support their body. Talk to them and reassure them that you have them and it’s ok. Have them take a deep breath and hold it, this will help them feel buoyant. Move the child down to that their head is resting on your arm while still supporting head. Ask them to move their arms above their head and hold onto your fingers. The child’s toes should be poking through the surface of the water and the head tilted back.

Prone Glide to Steps

This skill is very important and it must be mastered before your child moves on. Start by holding the child 3-5 feet away from the steps. Hold the child with one arm on their chest and one arm on their waist/legs. Tell them they are going to glide to the steps with their face in the water. Have them put their arms out in front of them (reduces resistance). Use the 1-2-3 verbal cue, raise the child up, tell them to close their mouth and push them toward the wall. It may be helpful, and more comfortable for the child, to let them stand on your leg instead of just holding them. As a word of warning, be prepared to get kicked in the stomach a few times while teaching this skill.

Prone Glide to Wall

Try the glide again but this time have the child glide to the wall and let them kick this time. Tell them that they must touch the wall before they come up for a breath.

Off the Side

The object of this exercise is to create a forward motion and overcome the fear of falling in. Have the child sit on the wall with feet in the water and you stand in waist-deep water. Hold the child under the arms while keeping your arms stiff and straight. Raise the child up and gently lower them into the water while moving backward. When the child reaches your hands pick them up and show them how far they went and praise them for it.

Off the steps, Turnaround and kick back to the steps

This combines all the skills and teaches the child to always turn around and go back to where they fell in. Show them how to do it first. If this is too much for them at first, you can have them hold your fingers a few times until they catch on.

Playing on the Steps
Blowing Bubbles
Kicking
Picking up Toy from Stesp
Riding on Shoulders
Going Underwater
Holding the Wall and Getting Back to Steps
Getting Face Wet
Prone Glide to Steps
Prone Glide to Wall
Off the Side
Off the steps, Turnaround and Kick back to Steps



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Ages 2 and Under
Toddler: Ages 2-4
Ages 4 and Older
Swimming Beyond Lessons
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