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The Little Lilypad is a lifestyle blog mostly written by a mum to two beautiful, cheeky and entertaining daughters. It is sometimes written by the Man on the Pad or by one of our baby bloggers. Occasionally we accept guest posts too. There is frequently talk of sustainable living, saving money, lifestyle and travel. It is hopefully helpful, sometimes funny and always honest.

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5 Clever Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Child to Swim

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I’ve talked about the many benefits of baby swimming before. It’s a pastime I love sharing with my girls but I know that not all children are keen on going in the water. For example, my friend has a son who had an inexplicable hatred of water – even baths. Baby swimming sessions for them were fuelled with stress, and it wasn’t until he was older that he came around to the idea of swimming for pleasure.

What can you do if you have a child who hates the water? Should you encourage them to swim and if so, how do you do it? Here are five effective ways you can turn your stubborn swimming hater into a frolicking fish.

Lose the Structure

You don’t have to have a formal process to swim. If swimming lessons are the worst half an hour of your week, stop. Take a breath. Start swimming for fun. Forget lessons and go when your child feels like it, just for pleasure. Take a pool noodle and have fun races, or tow them around the pool as if they were a speedboat.

Play with Water

I learnt this trick from my friend with the water-hating son. When even bath toys wouldn’t encourage him into the water she turned it into a game by incorporating it into their daily routine. He would “help” with the washing (some face cloths in a tub of soapy water), and get involved in his older brother’s water pistol fights.  A paddling pool in the backyard in summer was the bridge she needed to encourage him into a bigger pool, and now swimming is a highlight of their weekends.

Try a Different Location

It might be something as simple as a cold changing room, or a too-large pool, that puts your child off swimming. Try a different location, lots of baby swimming schools have a variety of locations that make this easier for you. Make the most of available swimming pools on your summer holiday, when they may be encouraged by seeing other children having fun swimming outdoors in the sun.

Make it Social

Peer pressure can work wonders with encouraging reluctant children into the water. Take them to watch older siblings, or arrange to go swimming with a friend who has children of a similar age.  Go into the water with your child so you can stay close to them and show them it’s nothing to fear.  Older children may feel awkward putting their changing bodies on show. Don’t make a big deal of it, just occasionally float idea (no pun intended) that they go swimming with a friend, and be sensitive to their feelings.

Try Someone Else

If you have tried all of the above and still can’t encourage your child to swim, get someone else to take over whether it’s a specialist swimming instructor who excels in teaching reluctant swimmers, or your dad who has endless patience where yours may wear thin. Though you may want it to be, especially if you love the water, it doesn’t have to be you that gets your child to enjoy swimming. We love our children more than anyone else on the planet, but I’ve learned that we’re not always the best people to convince them to do things!

Have patience. Swimming is such a healthy pastime that it’s worth persevering. 

LLP - 5 Clever Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Child to Swim

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  1. Tigger is a very reluctant swimmer and point blank refuses to go to the swimming pool. We have booked a family holiday this year and we all want to go swimming so we have bought him new swimwear and he has been getting used to it in the bath and I hope that he'll paddle in the edge of the pool when we go away

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  2. I'd definitely second your advice to try someone else, this swap in swim schools worked wonders for my boy. Mich x

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  3. We're just teaching ours to swim now. They are 4 and 7 so we haven't been particularly early in getting them swimming. But we've found that all these and especially having a lot of patience is really paying off.

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  4. What fab tips, my kids have all been ok with swimming luckily, but I have lots of friends who have struggled.

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  5. These are great tips! My daughter was reluctant to start off with, but soon got brave! I think it's a great idea to get someone else to take over sometimes - kids sometimes play up for us more than they would for others, whatever the situation.

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  6. Swimming is such an important skill and now that many schools have cut it from the curriculum time I do think parents need to work on teaching their children to swim.

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  7. Brilliant advice! Mine always loved swimming, it was me who hated the faff when they were little, but I wish I'd persevered because they're still learning now 11 years later!

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