What to do when you have a reluctant swimmer

Carlile Swimming has made a huge investment in Lane Cove by opening their purpose built pool at Lane Cove West.  The pool was designed in collaboration with Australia’s leading aquatic engineers who were responsible for some of the largest projects in the world including the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympic Aquatic centres.  We asked Carlile Swimming what do you do when you have a child who is not keen on swimming lessons (been there and got the T-shirt!!).  This is what they told us.

As a keen swimmer I can wax lyrical about the many benefits of swimming but, as a swimming teacher, I know not every child is excited about going in the water. There are some simple steps that will help even the most reluctant swimmer get their toes wet.

Before you start

What’s that saying about preparation: “By failing to prepare you’re preparing to fail”? It may be a bit heavy-handed but the sentiment is true. Before you even consider swimming lessons, think about other ways to get your children used to water. The easiest (and loveliest) way to do this is by using the bath or shower — using a flannel and eventually a cup, the baby can gently be introduced to the sensation of water on their face. Just be mindful that you want bath time to be a happy and relaxed time. Zen, now.

Next step: relax

Now that you have bath times mastered and you’re graduating to the pool and swimming lessons, think about how you feel around water. Anxious parents make anxious swimmers. Try to relax, your kids are in good hands. And if you’re afraid of water, consider taking lessons yourself so you can comfortably join your children in the pool — you’re never too old to learn how to swim.

Go to the pool early and often

The single biggest factor in helping your kids love the water is getting them into the water early and often. Visit the pool without any pressure to get in. Allow your kids to become familiar with the different sights and sounds of a swimming pool. Let them observe and let their curiosity drive the experience. Frequent visits to the pool make the water normal, nothing to be feared (as long as you follow simple rules), so sign up for those baby or toddler classes or take your kids to the local pool to play.

Have fun

Baby swimming lessons are all about learning to love the water — playing games and singing songs to allay any fears, all the while getting key safety messages. Young children learn more quickly when parents interact with them in the pool so make it a family activity. And have fun.

But my kid is already a reluctant swimmer

If you have a child who already has an intense reaction to the pool environment, think about why they’re reluctant… Have they had a bad experience? Is the pool too cold or too noisy? Are they shy and unsure of swimming with their instructor?

There are many reasons why children may be reluctant to get in the pool but if we know why, then we can work out how to ‘grow their gills’. These tips may help.

Don’t pressure kids or trick them into skills they’re not ready for

Praise their baby steps; trust they’ll make progress when the time is right. At Carlile we have a no force policy. We won’t force your kids to get into the pool or complete an activity if they’re not comfortable. Working at their pace, we gently assist with getting them comfortable and relaxed, and to engage as a willing and happy learner in the class.

Keep it fun

We’ve said it before but it’s so important to keep it fun. If swimming lessons are the worst half an hour of your week, talk to the supervisor (blue shirt, orange iPad). If that doesn’t work, change it up — days, teachers, time of the day. Start swimming for fun. Remember the joy of swimming, just for pleasure (as long as you are comfortable in the pool).

Try somewhere new

It might be something as simple as a cold changing room or a pool that gets waves that puts your child off swimming. Try a different location. 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 in 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 who love to swim. Go into the water with your child so you can stay close to them and show them there is nothing to fear.

Respond to their concerns. By listening to and acknowledging your child’s fears you’re building security and trust, not feeding the fear. Most of all, be patient. Swimming is such an important skill; it’s worth persevering.

About Carlile

Carlile Swimming provides swimming programs for all ages, from babies to Olympians. They have been pioneering new teaching and training methods for more than half a century and are recognised worldwide as a leader in all aspects of aquatic education.

Contact Details

Address: Carlile Swimming, 4 Sirius Road Lane Cove West NSW 2066
Book Here: Bookings
Phone: 9188 1027
Email: Click Here
Website: www.carlile.com.au
Facebook: facebook.com/carlileswimming

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  1. Good advice! We started our eldest off with Waterbabies in London who did lots of fun stuff (for parents) but most of the babies hating being dunked all the time. We moved to a school that focused on simpler stuff and keeping the kids happy. It was far more effective.

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