For newborns (birth to 6 months):
Babies have been "swimming" in utero since birth. Once born, swimming provides an opportunity to move in an environment where he will be buoyant and baby fat advantageous. Focus on enabling the baby to love being in water and to learn breath holding under water, be consistent week to week and swim daily where possible. Activities include: Balancing and floating with baby's chin on parent's shoulder, floating on back, blowing bubbles, bobbing up and down, passing under a gentle shower (up to 10x nonstop, followed by going underwater), gentle jumping (with support of parent's hands) into the bath, grasping the side of the tub or parent's thumbs. Before swimming: ensure newborn is fed and rested, hugs, kisses, cuddling throughout and at end!
For 6-12 months:
Gradually transition to a pool or open water, preferably heated. Note: Children can tolerate the cooler temps of an outdoor pool only at around 18-24 months. Extend the length of time baby goes underwater, holds his breath and keep up the newborn activities. Activities: Floating on the back, swimming from one to another parent, climbing out, blowing bubbles, bobbing up and down to breathe/submerge (say, "1-2-3-under"). At 1 year, he may even be able to sit by the side of the pool, jump in, swim a few feet and resurface to breathe -- with limited assistance! Swim as often as possible, ideally 3-5x a week
For 1-2 years:
Apply the same principles -- cuddling, kissing and joyousness, do each activity frequently, briefly and move on, keep the structure of each swim time/lesson the same. Focus is on independent activities, esp. climbing out of the pool, swimming the width of a pool (underwater/resurface to breathe/underwater), safely diving into the pool. If there is exposure to the beachfront (lake/gentle sloping ocean), the child can eventually walk into the water with you, swim out a short distance, turn around, swim back and walk out of the water onto the beach! Activities: Bobbing up and down, holding the side of the pool, swimming to the steps and from the steps to parent, and then, continuing to swim, floating on the back, jumping and diving from a sitting, then kneeling, then standing position to a parent, pushing off (from a ladder) and swimming to a parent, climbing out of the pool using steps and a ladder with a little boost as needed from parent. Goal: Child can happily and easily jump into the pool, swim across at least 6 years/meters, and climb out independently
For 2-4 years:
Children in this age group are extremely active physically, in constant motion, and MUST be well fed before swimming. Time to introduce goggles. Activities: Streamlining, flutter kicking, breathing and pulling with arms, flutter kicking as the child holds one side of the pool or as you hold the child on the side of your body, diving and streamlining to you from the side of the pool, dive from a standing position and streamlining, dive in the water to the bottom to retrieve an object. Goal: To swim the length of the pool with a crawl stroke taught via 3 proposed methods:
- A: Breathing and head turning while holding side of pool, rotate chin towards the shoulder and inhale, straighten the head as it enters the water and exhale
- B: Same as A but with parent holding child in the middle of pool
- C: Using arms for the crawl. Hold child on parent's side and progress to independent swimming
Focus on helping the child swim easier, more secure/safer and faster, improving the quality of streamlining, endurance, the crawl stroke (outside the pool) and diving. Goals: 4 years - 100 meters crawl, 5 years - 200 meters crawl, 6 years - 400 meters crawl. Once your child loves to swim and is doing well with the crawl, move on to other strokes/flip turns and continue to teach in a loving way! Activities: Streamlining with independent breathing, further nonstop crawl strokes (inhale left and then right), improve diving in the sitting, kneeling and standing position. Bench activities (face down): Rotate chin to shoulder and inhale, straighten head and exhale, flutter kicking (knees over the end of the bench and movement from hips, not knees), rotate and pull with both arms (moving over and below the sides of the bench), combine pulling with arms + flutter kicking + breathing
Make it fun! Suggested water play (2 years up):
Retrieve toys such as rings/brightly coloured objects, swim between legs of one parent then both, riding on your back like a dolphin, racing/chasing/"tag", parents throws kid into "deep" water while standing, push off the bottom and rocket to the surface, see how far you can swim underwater, swim in deep water, play soccer/water polo/basketball with floating net, go underwater and somersault forwards/backwards, stand on your hands on the bottom of the pool, "Marco Polo" (kid holds themselves in a tuck position - knees held tightly against chess, parent throws them into the air, they splash in water and swim back)....