If I had my choice I would be poolside all summer. There is something about the smell of chlorine, the cool water, and that cement that nearly blisters your feet. It just feels like summer when I’m at a pool. My days at the pool have most definitely changed over the years. Goodbye baby oil, hello sunscreen (and lots of it). Beyond that I have learned that swimming with kids means being involved and aware, not just in making memories, but in keeping my kids safe. If you are looking for ways to make your time at the pool fun for your kids, no matter their age, keep reading.
The younger a child is when she starts being in the water, the more comfortable she is likely to be in the pool.The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to know that because children cannot voluntarily hold their breath for significant amounts of time until the age of four swimming lessons for infants and toddlers do not protect children from drowning. The AAP suggests that pool time for this age should be about exploration and joy. Keep your little one within arm’s reach at all times. Begin slowly, first dripping water on your little one’s toes, then putting feet into the water. If your child is receptive keep going, if not slow it down. Follow your baby’s lead. Try to schedule pool times around nap times, otherwise tears are inevitable. Toys that squirt water are also a big hit for little ones, especially as they develop the muscles necessary to squeeze the toys themselves. As always check with your pediatrician before you introduce your child to the water. He/she may have recommendations based on your child’s individuality and circumstances.
At this age children are usually trying to assert their independence. The shallow end, or even a wading pool, is still best for this age group. While they may be feeling confident, it is important that parents are vigilant and completely aware of what their child is doing at all times. Pool games are a great way to interact with your young swimmer while she enjoys the water and you ensure her safety. A few great pool activities for this age-group are:
Ring Toss- Using the classic colored stacking rings game that most toddlers enjoy, set it up to float on the water by using an upside down frisbee. Seated on the edge, they can take turns playing a ring toss game.
Ping Pong Ball Blower– While holding your preschooler have him place his face just above the water and blow the ping pong ball to the side of the pool. This is a great activity to teach kiddos about breath control when in the water and blowing the top of the water/the ball is a precursor to blowing bubbles under the water.
Sing Along-Whether it be Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, or The Wheels on the Bus holding your child and engaging in a song and repeated movements is a great way of easing them into the water and developing swimming skills with support (floating on their back, kicking their feet, blowing bubbles, etc.).
Traffic Lights– Place your child by either a stair or one of the walls – they’ll want to be holding onto something. Once they’re ready, start calling out the colors of a traffic light. Red Light means to stop kicking and simply float there. Yellow Light means to kick slowly and steadily. Green Light means to kick as hard as they can.
This is where some of my own very best pool memories were made. Pool games are the gold standard for kids in this age group. Even at this age, swimmers need you in the water with them during the games, so you can act fast if needed. Keep the kids on the shallow steps, and evaluate each swimmer’s ability and comfort level before beginning any swimming games. Keep a close eye on the games to avoid bumps and bruises.
Call and Respond The swimmer who is “it” must close their eyes and try to find the other swimmers. When “it” says the name of an animal, all of the swimmers must make the noise of that animal. For example, if the animal named is a lion, all the other swimmers must roar. Once someone making an animal sound is tagged, they become the new “it.”
Sharks and Minnows The person playing the role of the shark stands in the middle of the pool. When that person says “Go!” all other swimmers (the minnows) swim away as fast as possible. Any minnows that are tagged become sharks and must try to help turn other minnows into sharks.
What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?– One person is Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox stands at the end of the pool. All other swimmers are at the other end of the pool. Swimmers yell “What time is it, Mr. Fox?” Mr. Fox gives a time and swimmers must move that many steps forward. For example, giving the time of 5 o’clock means everyone must move five steps forward. At any time Mr. Fox can respond “lunchtime!” All swimmers must then try to swim back to their starting line. Whoever gets tagged is the new Mr. Fox.
Simon Says: Have children spread out in the pool. The supervising adult will be “Simon” of the game. Simon will call out an action, like “Simon says, float on your back”, everyone should do what is asked. When he calls out an action without saying “Simon says”, the player to do the action will be eliminated from the pool. The winner will be the last standing kid in the water.
A day at the pool is a day filled with fun, but it is important to remember that, with kids in tow, it isn’t going to be you poolside relaxing with a book or magazine. A day at the pool with children requires your full attention and engagement. When you look at it as quality time with your children, a time when you are free from technology and can enjoy being outdoors… It can be pretty magical. Plus, your little ones are sure to sleep like rocks after a day in the water.
Here are a few additional safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help you keep your children safe while swimming.