Want to learn how to teach your children to swim before age 3? I'm going to tell you.
My daughter can easily swim the short length of our pool underwater. Although she sort of looks like she's drowning, she's perfectly fine and happy. She can swim underwater almost the full length of the pool and has enough strength and coordination to take a few above-water breaths, allowing her to swim the full length of the pool.
She's 2 years old. Check her out:
I didn't realize how unusual this was until I saw my friend's 6-year-old daughter afraid to put her face in the water, or until I watched my neighbor's dad sit nervously by the pool as he can't swim.
I have four children, ages 6, 5, 2, and an infant. The older three can all swim, and while I keep my eyes on them at all times, I feel comfortable having them in or near the water. While I'd like to credit my husband's athletic genes, that's not the reason they can swim.
I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and I'm going to share them with you. Here's how to teach your children to swim before age 3:
Give them plenty of opportunities to swim.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's not so easy if you live in a land-locked area or don't have access to a pool. Do the best you can to provide opportunities to swim, as the more experience and practice they have, the better they will be.
Sign them up for year-round lessons.
Swimming lessons year-round are a great idea for young children and even children who already know how to swim. They will have the opportunity to practice swimming every week, will learn proper form and technique, and will learn safety skills as well. My girls go to Goldfish Swim School, where they have fun in the pool while learning important skills. In just a few weeks my 2-year-old has gone from forgetting how to hold her breath underwater to diving to the bottom to pick up a toy from the pool floor and swimming to the side.
Just dump them in.
I know some people disagree with me and think this is too rough, but it works. From a young age I let my children get splashed in the water. I dunk them in and then lift them out of the water. I hold their hands when they jump in, but don't help them bring their heads above water unless they can't figure it out in a second or two. I contribute all of that to my children being very comfortable in the water from a young age and also learning how to swim early on.
Use toys to help.
When my oldest was 2, I would give him a kickboard and swim lengths of the pool alongside him as he kicked his way across. When he was hesitant or afraid to continue, I would throw a floating toy a few feet ahead of him so he would kick hard to retrieve it.
When I wanted my daughter to learn to swim underwater, I started dropping toys to the pool floor for her to retrieve. This is a fun game they still all play years later. Using toys helps add fun to the experience!
Don't use floatation devices.
We use Puddle Jumpers up until about age 3 or 4, but I make sure to remove all floatation devices in the pool for at least a few minutes every time we are swimming. This helps the kids understand that they can't float. It gives them an opportunity to practice swimming. And it reminds you that you always need to stay within arms' length of your children in the pool. It isn't easy, especially when you have several children, to do this, but even 5 minutes every pool trip can make a difference!
These are just my opinions on teaching your children to swim before age 3, but I feel confident in them as I've now taught three children to swim with these methods.
This summer be safe, have fun, and teach your children to swim!
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.