Learn to Swim

A guide to the Learn to Swim Programme

Should we really let toddlers get wet?

Have you ever seen the film Gremlins? There is an adorably cute creature called Gismo who creates chaos if you ever get him wet. Recently I have wondered if the same should be true for toddlers. Sure, they look sweet in their bright coloured character swimming costumes…

That is once you have wrestled with them into it in a changing cubicle smaller than the box they played with on their first birthday. You on the other hand, come out redder than a beetroot, sucking in your mummy tummy and with the realisation that the one pound coin for the locker is at the very bottom of your bag (sigh).

Despite all this, I absolutely adore taking my son swimming. As an ex-competitive swimmer, I was convinced my child was going to be just like the 16 month old YouTube swimming sensation from America who could safely swim across the width of the pool on her back, no problem. But like most things in parenthood, it was just an idealistic fantasy dreamt up by a naive want to be parent.

Reality is much more fun. I want to share with you a few of the lessons I have learnt taking my son, Seb, to adult and child swimming classes for the last two years. Seb is now two and a half years old. He is working his way through the Discovery Duckling award scheme at Blackbrook Leisure Centre in Taunton.

Important parent lessons

The first lesson I have learnt is that most two-year-olds do not float, but equally they DO NOT want you to hold them. The solution? Well I have tried a few. The most common being to let my stubborn and independent child try and swim on his own.

It doesn’t take long for him to grab me again but the pinch marks on my arm take a few days to go down. So I have invested in numerous flotation devices.

It won’t come as a surprise to many of you that the expensive arm bands that I purchased went down like a lead balloon. Meanwhile my husband, who knows very little about swimming, saved the day with a 99p inflatable swim ring.

Seb will bob about for hours with no tantrum or drowning in sight. Want to go even further? Splash (sorry I couldn’t resist) out on a matching 99p inflatable ball and your swimming sessions will become a whole lot more fun.

Seb discovers the joy of the pool waterfall.

Secondly, toddlers aren’t that keen on water in their eyes, but equally they absolutely love to splash at every opportunity (makes no sense to me either). This is where adult and child swimming classes have helped us.

From the moment we started, Chris our swimming teacher encouraged Seb to put his face in the water. I am eternally grateful for this. Not only is he happy splashing and sinking, but he also is now happy having a shower saving us precious time on busy evenings (admit it, we don’t always have time for 30 minute lavender bubble baths before bedtime).

Thirdly, toddlers actually don’t care about swimming. Most of the time they are oblivious to it! I used to spend our lessons coercing Seb to try and use his arms in a swimming like fashion. Now I just throw a ball and he quickly learnt that if he used his arms he gets to the ball faster. The same with a sinking toy, the only way he will get it is to put his face in.

Embrace your inner fun

And that is the ultimate lesson, that toddlers don’t learn water confidence by trying to swim. They learn through toys and games and singing. Once I embraced the fun element of the lesson Seb has come on leaps and bounds.

Streamlining now no longer exists for me, it is all about rockets. Arm strokes are tiger paws, and if you are happy and you know it you should definitely blow some bubbles!

With the summer upon us, beach trips and outdoor swimming will fill our weekends. I will of course share my experiences of salt water inhalation and sand eating soon. In the meantime why not follow me on Instagram @mummyfish83 to see our many adventures and to share yours as well.

Emily is one of our parent bloggers, sharing their real-life stories from parents whose children are learning to swim with Swim England Awards. All views are her own. Read more like this in our Parent Blog section.