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Swimming for reluctant 4 year old

(28 Posts)
SlowDown Fri 11-Jul-08 19:53:20

I'm planning on booking some swimming lessons for my 4yr old in Sept, very nice sounding instructors who can cope with reluctant children apparently! Leading up to it want to start taking him swimming myself to get him used to being in the pool. We've only been swimming a couple of times since he did a course of lessons when he was 2 and he's reluctant at all things swimming now! Anyone got any advice on what I should do during the sessions when I take him? When he was 2 I used to support him myself and pull him along in the water (amongst other things) but is that still good for a 4 year old? Or should I try to encourage more independence from me with arm bands? Sorry, I'm clueless despite being quite a confident swimmer myself! Would a swimming noodle be a good idea? Just want to get over this reluctance so he can start to learn but as he's so tricky when starting anything new I predict it's not going to be easy!!

HonoriaGlossop Fri 11-Jul-08 20:21:24

I think it's a good idea to take him first to get him used to it. If he's not ready in Sept I think it would be better to delay the lessons rather than try to get a reluctant child in the pool...

Do you have a DP/DH? If so I would definitely go with them - they will most likely be bigger and stronger and more able to hold your ds securely in the water which may add to the feeling of security he gets. Also they are often great at water games!

Just to give you an idea of what we did, DH took ds every week for AGES just for a play in the water. He hated arm bands or any floats, he seemed quite scared of them so we just held him etc. Over time ds got very confident and though he still can't swim far (swimming pool has closed for a while!) he is absolutely confident in water and bombs in off the side, spends more time diving under the water than being on top of it etc! He's learnt to 'swim' without arm bands at any stage so they're not a must have.

good luck, I'm sure he'll get used to the water.

ChippyMinton Fri 11-Jul-08 20:45:13

Find a warm learner pool that he can stand up in, and preferably with shallow steps so he can enter the water by himself. Then let him play until he gets his confidence.

foxythesnowfox Fri 11-Jul-08 20:48:47

Goggles. Made a big difference to my LOs. We don't use armbands, have done in the past, but I don't think they are necessary. Especially once we started lessons. smile

runnyhabbit Fri 11-Jul-08 20:57:09

We have just gone through the same thing with ds1, who's 3. Except he had a very real fear of water/swimming pools.
We thought swimming lessons would help, but it was the opposite - he got absolutley hystericalsad

So rang local leisure centre, and spoke to an instructor who was great, and suggested that we go to a parent and toddler class, so he wouldn't feel abandoned, iyswim.

He was the oldest one there, but it has been worth it. The first week, he wouldn't let go of me, and was very nervous. 4 weeks later, he walks in by himself, and loves the wave machine coming ongrin And he' got his Duckling Grade 1 Award, which we all very proud ofgrin

I would agree with going to a walk-in style pool, and finding out if they have family sessions (generally find them quieter than regular public times)

Good luck

SlowDown Fri 11-Jul-08 21:23:05

Thanks for the messages and practical advice. I guess I've got to hold back on my own swimming enthusiasm and let him go at his own pace.. or it will backfire! He was doing lots of splashing at the beach last week which was encouraging, water is fine as long as it's play and not 'swimming pool'! Maybe this fear thing even stems back to when I first took him with a friend and her 'water loving baby' at 9 months, and just went straight in the water and he just freaked out!!

HonoriaGlossop Fri 11-Jul-08 21:29:06

Maybe the lessons are too much too soon? If he's that fearful I think it would be better to go to the pool with no agenda in mind other than to play. If 'i have to get him ready by september' is in your mind it might just stress you all out.

There's no mad hurry, after all...he's still got plenty of time to learn smile

asteamedpoater Fri 11-Jul-08 22:17:23

Find a warm pool, so he's not put off by the cold water... My son hated armbands but loved having a float jacket - it meant he could move his arms and legs about normally. You can also gradually take the floats out of the jacket. We found this worked better than pulling him around without floats or armbands, and was necessary once he'd got beyond the stage of being scared even to get in and had started wanting to "swim" a bit, rather than walk around in the water. Swimming lessons came after all this, not before (which I think is a good idea, as there is a big emphaisis in swimming lessons on putting your head in the water, which is a terrifying prospect for a child who doesn't want any part of his body in the water). His swimming teacher used a thing that looks like a shark fin to keep him afloat while he was learning to swim - the fin straps round his chest and means he didn't even have a bulky float jacket to contend with.

Some children don't really need to go through the armbands or float jacket stage (I didn't), but they tend to be the more physically confident children. My eldest son needed a long build-up time to get any confidence in the water at all, and the float jacket definitely helped build up that confidence.

SlowDown Fri 11-Jul-08 22:36:46

There is a lot to think about. Think we'll test the water (sorry, bad pun) a bit in the next few weeks by taking him along to a family fun session at the local pool just to see how it goes. They have floats and inflatibles in the water which may entice him. No, I'm not going to feel pressurised to get him ready by Sept as there's not a lot of point in us all getting stressed out. He's not going to learn anyway until he's relaxed so guess we'll take it as it comes. We'll take dd as well who is 20 months. She's only been swimming once before about a year ago so it'll be interesting to see how she gets on. She loves her bath but has recently become scared of baths at other people's houses (ds went through this phase too) so we'll just have to see grin (a fun filled family outing or maybe not!!) The float jacket sounds interesting - thanks for that tip!

castlesintheair Fri 11-Jul-08 22:42:14

My 6 & 4 year old had their 1st blush lessons after half term. After 6 lessons they can both swim a bit on their own, jump into the pool, and go under water. More importantly, they absolutely love it. I signed them up for small classes (no more than 4) in a small, warm, uncrowded pool. Definitely worth it and I didn't have to take them on my own first to get them used to it. My DS (6) has SN and can be really anxious about new things too.

handbagqueen Fri 11-Jul-08 22:52:17

just been throught this with DD1 who is 5 years old. She hated swimming pools as a baby and would get hysterical before she went anywhere near the water. She hated any water getting onto her face so splashy pools were her nightmare. We took her to the pool each week started by just sitting on the steps of the teaching pool chatting and watching, then week 3 she wanted to go into the water with me holding her. The next week I got her some goggles to stop the splashing issues and she went into the water for the whole time. Week 5 we got her some arm bands she used them with me holding her hands. Week 6 she let go of my hands and paddled around on her own. Now she is ahppy to paddle around on her own with arm bands and doesn't wear her goggles as she is getting used to the splashing. I am now planning to book swimming lessons for September.

handbagqueen Fri 11-Jul-08 22:54:25

Forgot to mention having DD2 (1 yr old) there was a help as it encouraged DD1 to go into the water - we also took along a ball so they could roll it to each other in the water.

brimfull Fri 11-Jul-08 23:22:26

My ds was just the same ,really timid and reluctant.

I agree with the suggestion of a toddler pool that's warm.

But goggles really really helped.

jammi Sat 12-Jul-08 08:38:30

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jammi Sat 12-Jul-08 08:39:08

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cornsilk Sat 12-Jul-08 08:41:41

we found the jacket or arm rings to be quite effective at building up confidence. The arm rings are good - we started with 3 on each arm which keeps them up and then gradually removed one at a time. Also goggles.

SlowDown Sat 12-Jul-08 17:00:36

Glad to hear we're not the only ones going through this! We went as far as the viewing area at the leisure centre today and didn't push it any further as ds was tired having already been out to a summer fair. Next week we might try the sitting on the steps thing and goggles maybe! I think a gradual build up might be good. I'm trying to be less pushy about it. Just that it looked so much fun in there with the inflatibles etc.!!

Elibean Sun 13-Jul-08 19:56:45

I've been wondering about lessons for my 4.5 yr old dd, some very useful feedback on this thread for me too smile

I can relate to being a relaxed/keen swimmer myself, and finding it hard to hold back on enthusiasm with reluctant child...dd2 loves the water, but dd1 is firmly in the fun-only (and with armbands) camp. She does not want lessons, and is very very clear about that - I know from experience that being pushy with her will have the wrong consequences.

I do sometimes worry that I should be doing something - what?!? - differently.

OTOH, I never had any lessons as a child, just splashed around and had fun till I was about 6 and learnt on my own at the beach one holiday. None of my friends had lessons either, we all just learnt in our own time, somehow...

SlowDown Sun 13-Jul-08 21:58:11

Hi Elibean. Swimming lessons do seem a bigger thing these days. I didn't go till 6 but my mum doesn't remember it being that significant, don't think there were as many baby and toddler swimming classes in my day (I may be wrong). Now I feel that I've missed the boat a bit with ds and that most of our friend's children are happily bobbing about in the water. But then we've never lived within walking distance of a pool so apart from the 1 course of lessons swimming hasn't been part of our routine. I know what you mean about being pushy backfiring. The more you care about them doing it, the more they dig heels in! It's hard to get it right!! Good luck smile

tori32 Sun 13-Jul-08 22:09:23

Sorry to say but you pulling him and supporting him in the water at 2 is probably why he has no confidence.
I CM and under advice from a colleague who has been taking children swimming for 20yrs I put all my children into floats/armbands/rings from the off. (including my 3mth old).
I suggest armbands and ring first, then when he is happy going his own way in the pool without you within arms reach, remove the ring.
When he can swim i.e. do some form of stroke use a hand held float to practice kicking.
Practice arm strokes out of the water.

Try to get him to hold his breath and dip his head under once he gets more confidant/ use the 1,2,3 duck scenario.

4madboys Sun 13-Jul-08 22:37:04

thats odd tori as most swimming teachers i know and life guards etc actually say you are better NOT to use arm bands, they are uncomfy and a child cannot learn to swim properly with them on, they cant move their arms to swim correctly.

i think there was a thread on this recently where a mother from australia said that they NEVER use arm bands all children just start of in shallow water and gradually learn to swim, if they use anything at all it is a float that they can hold to whilst they kick, you can also get them to hold on to the edge of the pool (lots have a bar to hold) and practise kicking like that.

swimming lessons where they have fun and practise splashing and playing are the way to go, sing songs and bob up and down, your child doesn have to get their face wet but if they keep seeing you do it then they will gradually realise it is an ok thing. another thing is to try and get them to blow bubbles or take ping pong balls to the pool and let them blow them across the pool, most little ones love to do this and it encourages them to put their face near the water

my eldest (now 8) went swimming with us regularly as a baby and never wore arm bands, then he started lessons at four and now is a confident swimmer, tho is better swimming on his back.

ds2 who is 6, didt go as often when he was little but he also started lessons at 4 and was wary to begin with but his teacher was great, held him, let him take a fave toy into the pool with him (obviously not a cuddly, but he took little playmobile people or plastic animal type things) just so he had something familiar from home, and gradually his confidence has built up and he is getting there, he loves to swim with one of those foam 'noodle' things which can go under each arm, across the chest and gives them a bit of buyoncy

btw i never had armband and could swim before i could walk pretty much, but we lived in sardinia and i was at the beach every day and then we lived in cyprus and i swam in the beach and in a swimming club a couple of times a week, i dont remember any of my friends having arm bands and we all learnt to swim fine

castlesintheair Mon 14-Jul-08 12:26:30

They don't use bands where my DCs learn. The teacher holds them until they are confident or they use one of those long floats. One week they used shark fins. Great fun. As I said before, my 2 eldest can now swim a little bit on their own after 6 weeks. If you can find a place that only has 4 in a class I would definitely recommend it. It is by far the best thing I have done for my children all year smile

Flibbertyjibbet Mon 14-Jul-08 12:47:38

agree with Honoria.
If we haven't been swimming for a while then the first session back I have to expect nothing and just be happy if they will even let go of me in the water!

We use armbands, the swimming teacher/lifeguard said they are fine but as the child gets a bit more confident you can inflate them slightly less each time so the child doesn't rely on them.
If you have two children to take swimming then you need something like armbands as you can't hold two of them up in the water all the time while they try to swim, but with arbands the older one can manage some independent close by. Without armbands I could not have taken 2 small dcs safely. Armbands plus a small ring at first is great as they can move their legs freely but whole upper body is supported - the armbands mean they can't slip through the ring! Then when ds1 gets confident half way through the session I take the ring off and he splashes happily.

No need for supporting or pulling in the water, he does doggy paddle quite well.

tori32 Mon 14-Jul-08 13:53:09

4madboys I agree if a child is confident in water you shouldn't use armbands, just floats. However, this boy isn't. Also, if they learn to be independent in water using armbands and rings from infancy, they will then develop enough confidence to learn to swim once they can be properly instructed. smile

Elibean Mon 14-Jul-08 18:30:57

armbands helped turn dd1 from a child who was afraid to go into the pool to one who loves it. Now we have access to a shallow pool, she splashes around without them too.

She categorically hates floats, and won't swim with those, but noodles she likes. Shark fins sound fun, never seen those!

I think no matter how good a teacher or small a class we'd get, she wouldn't go and would feel forced looks like I'll be going in for splash time weekly for a while longer hmm

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