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.