If you’ve started your little one in infant swim lessons or toddler swimming lessons, you likely have experienced one of two possible reactions to getting their head wet: they either love it or they hate it.
If your child falls into the former category, that’s great. But if your tiny swimmer is resistant (or all out panicked) about submerging their head underwater, being in the pool can be stressful for both of you. Try not to despair: there are plenty of fun swimming games you can try – and ways you can use bath time play – to help your child move past their fears. Here are a few tactics we recommend.
Bubbles Bubbles Everywhere
Almost all young kids love bubbles. When you’re helping your child learn to hold their breath underwater, start with bubbles. You’ll recognize this go-to activity from swim class, and you can up the ante even more at home. Create a game where you and your little one take turns blowing bubbles.
Depending on their age and skill level, you can keep adding on new challenges each round. Maybe you start with blowing bubbles like normal, then the next time you do so while kicking and then the next time you do so with your eyes in the water. This will help make the act of getting their mouth in the water (while breathing out) a comfortable practice – and is fun to boot.
Go for Goggles
Many times, children don’t like to dunk their heads underwater because they find it scary. The combination of not having access to air and not being able to see can be pretty frightening. If your child is in toddler swimming lessons, chances are they’ve been introduced to goggles at some point. If not, you can encourage them to give them a try at home.
Start by wearing goggles yourself and showing your child how you put your face underwater and look around. Then ask if they want a try. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t warm up to the idea right away. Never force them to put the goggles; simply let your child play with them. When they’re ready to put them on, they will let you know. At that point, you can play fun games like asking them to hold their breath and put their eyes in the water, and you show them a new “surprise” each time. This can be a great way to banish fear of the unseen.
Play Marine Biologist
If your child still seems hesitant about their head getting wet, stick to the pool steps (or bath time play if you don’t have regular access to a pool). Bring some water-friendly toys like sea creature figurines and let them fall underwater to the step. Encourage your child to discover new creatures by staying on the surface and putting their eyes in the water. This is a good method for gradually building up their confidence in reaching underwater and even getting their upper arms, neck, and ultimately face wet.
Move in Stages
If your little love is in infant swim lessons, you can help them learn about holding their breath underwater by introducing them to the feeling of water on their heads. At our school, you might’ve noticed that we have cups with holes in the bottom that we use to create a shower-like sensation on babies’ heads. You can do the same at home, by punching small holes in the bottom of a plastic cup. Watch your infant’s eyes light up when you fill the cup and bring it above them to drip water (in non-threatening quantities) on their head. Go slowly, and make sure you’re being playful so your child can pick up on your mood.
There are plenty of fun swimming games you can use to reinforce the concept of holding breath underwater, but the key is to have fun with your child and show them that having their head underwater doesn’t have to be scary. Go at their pace and be sure to tie in lessons that you’ve learned in class. This will help your child slowly become more comfortable in the water, and before you know it, they might even be clamoring to be submerged.
For more resources check out our post on 6 Tips to Prep Your Child for Swim Lessons at Home. Hubbard Family Swim School is here to answer any of your questions. Contact us today!