Six tips to help children feel confident in water
Swimming and having fun in water is one of life's joys - but it can also be an essential lifesaving skill, especially as drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death in children.
Yet, despite 95% of parents with kids aged under 12 believing that swimming is a key life skill for youngsters, more than half (59%) worry their child isn't confident in the water. Furthermore, research by Sport England has found that one in four children can't swim 25m unaided by the time they leave primary school. Further data from Swim England shows more than a quarter of parents take their children to the pool just once every six months or less, with 10% going less than once a year or never.
Swimming also provides lots of health benefits. It helps keep children's heart and lungs healthy, improves strength and flexibility, increases stamina and even improves balance and posture. It can work wonders for boosting their confidence too and opens the door to a range of other activities, including kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, surfing, triathlon and yachting. Clearly, there are a wealth of reasons to help children get more water confident - and the younger the better.
With Sport England's research showing enjoyment is a key factor in keeping youngsters active, Disney and Swim England have launched a year-long programme of Disney-inspired Family Fun Swim Sessions – to ensure swimming is a fun and safe activity for all ages and help young children get on the right road to swimming proficiency.
To encourage parents to take the plunge and get their kids enjoying the water, Katie Towner, head of Learn to Swim at Swim England, has the following tips to help improve children's water confidence...
1. Show them your confidence
You can help give your child confidence in the water by showing you feel comfortable too. If you look like you're happy and enjoying swimming, they're much more likely to do so too.
2. Blow bubbles under the water
A great place to start is blowing bubbles under the water. This will improve your child's confidence in putting their head into the water and establish aquatic breathing. They're probably used to splashing in the bath, which makes it even more accessible and fun. Start by progressively placing the mouth, then the nose, then the whole face in the water. Encourage them to breathe out and not inhale the water though.
3. Rocket push-offs
A rocket push-off, also known as a push and glide, is a simple fun move that helps kids practice a streamlined position, which is an essential skill when learning any of the four swim strokes.
To do it, children can start with either their feet on the floor with their knees bent, or feet flat against the pool wall, holding on to the wall with one hand. Then they need to take a big breath and put their face in the water, stretch both hands out in front of them, and at the same time push off with their feet and straighten out their legs, holding that position for as long as possible. To stop, they should simply push down on the water with their hands and lift their head, and at the same time bring their knees up to their chest before putting their feet flat on the floor.
Push and glides can be introduced once the child is proficient in regaining an upright position. They can be practiced with the use of flotation equipment until the child is able to float independently. And be sure to make the practicing fun, with plenty of encouragement.
4. Practice floating like a starfish
"Getting your child to relax and float on their back in the water like a starfish is something we always recommend parents try with their little ones," says Towner. Knowing they can float on their back gives them confidence to take to the water, as they can rest for a while. The star float is the first step in learning vital water safety skills.
5. Swim at least once a week
Swimming at least once a week from a young age is not only a fun activity, but it helps children get used to being around the water and improve their movement and swimming skills.
6. Take them to a family fun swim session
Check out sessions at your local pool to help your kids have fun and improve their confidence while learning some essential swimming skills. The newly-launched Disney-inspired Family Fun Swim Sessions use some of Disney's most-loved characters to inspire activities to do just that. Taking place at more than 250 pools nationwide for the next year, you can find your nearest pool offering the sessions at swimming.org/Disney.