Prepare Your Baby for Going Under Water
by Beatriz Skeens (Miss Bea)
Having a baby comfortable in the water is the first thing you can do to prepare your child to be safe in the water and to have a love of swimming. As parents we let our children forget the wonderful sensation of free-floating. It is important to expose your very young baby to the feeling of floating on water. We forget that babies spend their first nine months of life in water!
Start by getting used to being in the water with your young baby. When the baby has some control of his head movements, get in the bathtub with your baby. (See the video example in www.swimbea.com) Hold him from underneath while he floats on his back and looks up at you. Turn him on his belly and hold him under his chin with his face above the water and gently move him back and forth to get him accustomed to sensing the water. Talk and sing to him tenderly. Stay in the tub for a short period of time. Keep the room and water warm. Do not let the baby get cold.
Every time that you give your baby a bath, run a little water down his face before you wash his head. Wipe his nose to keep any water from going up his little nose. These activities will accustom a very young baby to the water and prepare him for total submersion with you or in a swimming program.
Every parent wants their children to be comfortable around the water but may feel nervous about submerging their child. The following are some strategies for teaching infants and children to hold their breath and open their eyes while learning how to swim. Watching my video will give you confidence as you perform the activities. (www.swimbea.com) You will watch other parents doing the same things with their children. I can assure you that if you follow my suggestions, you will not be hurting your baby. You will not be holding your baby under the water long enough for the baby to swallow water. Add your own games and toys to distract the baby, praising and clapping for each accomplishment. Even if a child cannot swim any distance, teaching your child to hold his breath may save him if he falls in the water. (A minute after you notice he has escaped and you pull him out of the water!!
For a baby up to 6 months old, blow like a gentle gust of wind onto the baby’s face. If the baby takes in a gulp of air and makes a funny face, then you will blow on the baby’s face before putting him under the water and watch him hold his breath. Follow these steps. After the baby is comfortable and playful in the water, hold the baby under the arms facing you, and make eye contact with your baby. Count to three to set the signal, blow quickly on the child’s face, and watch the child make the funny face then smoothly and gently lower the baby’s head completely under the water for one second.
To teach a toddler and young child to hold his breath, count to three (to set the signal) and pour water on his face. When the baby is used to closing his mouth while having water on the face, the baby will be ready to be submerged. First, count to three and pour water over the baby’s face. Then lightly raise and gently lower the baby under the water for one second. After a few times you won’t need to pour water over the baby’s head. The count will be the signal. Every time you count to three, you will put the baby under the water or you will confuse the baby! Many parents pull the baby into the water or throw the baby up in the air while playing with the baby. That is great, but don’t count to three unless you are going to submerge the baby. Be consistent with the signals.
For all infants and young children: When you raise the baby, wipe the baby’s nose so that not even a tiny water bubble will go into his nose. Give the baby a hug to your chest so that the baby will blow out and not swallow air. You are teaching the baby to hold his breath. By blowing out the baby will not develop a hard tummy which sometimes becomes a big burp, and may even lead to throwing up.
As the young child becomes used to going under water, you extend the time under the water to up to 5 seconds pulling the child toward you for a short glide as you step back.
Next you put your hand behind the child’s head gliding the child to another person, to a toy or to the side.
As the child starts enjoying going under the water encourage the child to put his own face down and kick and dig while going to a toy or to the steps. Teach the child to stand up. Continue to hold the child since he may not have the skills to propel himself and swim alone. The child must trust you and master each step with confidence. To teach an older child to hold his breath and go under water, explain each step. Always say close your mouth, the child may not understand “hold your breath”. Have the child count to three and put a toy under the water telling the toy to close its mouth and wipe its face. Then, both of you put your faces under the water together. Have the child dunk you under the water. If the child won’t open his eyes, let the child see you open your eyes under water as you swim to him. Try waving to each other under water. Make noises when you blow out or spit. Wipe each other’s faces. Hold up a finger like a birthday candle for the child to blow out when he comes up from under the water. Pretend to crash the wall while the child has his face in the water and kicks. Hold up a finger like a birthday candle for the child to blow out when he comes up from under the water. Play with the child to open his eyes so he will realize that the water won’t hurt his eyes. If after all this the child continues to swallow water or has sensitive eyes, try goggles or even a mask that covers the nose. The child has to be comfortable and playful going under the water in order to learn to swim.
Encourage the child to open his eyes: It is very important for the child to open his eyes under the water. If a child doesn’t open his eyes, he probably remembers soap stinging his eyes in the tub. Go under water and open your eyes so the child can see you swim to him with your eyes open. Have the child hold a toy and you get it under the water so he can see your eyes open. If the child still won’t open his eyes, buy some swim goggles! (Don’t let the child become dependent on the goggles. Do some swimming without the goggles.) If you have our video, (www.swimbea.com) all of this will be shown with real children acting out their activities. You will see as you hear me talk and explain the progression and you will be able to teach your child to go under water too! Now get in the water and do it!!
copyright 2005 Beatriz Skeens, Swimbea Productions
About the Author:
A swimming teacher since 1971 to children, babies and adults, Miss Bea decided she had to share her experiences. She is featured in the recently released Swim Lesson DVD-video, 35 minutes each, in English and Spanish called Learn to Swim with Miss Bea. You can watch and learn how to swim from the children with the easy to follow instructions and activities. Bea Skeens is also National Board Certified Classroom Teacher in Glynn County, Georgia, with 20 years experience teaching Spanish. Visit her site www.swimbea.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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