N’s never been a fan of swimming on his back. He obviously hasn’t yet twigged how much easier and less effort it is to swim on your back compared with on your front. That’s something I established quite early on in my swimming ‘career’.
Right up until pre-Christmas he was still fairly anti-backstroke, even with me supporting him although with a woggle he’d be perfectly safe. He should have understood that given he’ll quite happily swim and float for ages with a woggle on his front.
But it was swimming on his back without me holding him that held up him achieving his first badge at his Water Babies swimming lessons. He ticked off everything else on the list except for that. Only 5 metres needed.
So the challenge was on for the first lesson back of the new year and as expected it was ‘back week’.
Initially it was the usual protests, flipping himself back over, and not wanting to hold on to the woggle.
Then, all of a sudden, he was off and swimming, holding on to the woggle with both hands, and kicking (albeit very slowly), swimming from one side across the width of the pool. The little tike!
So not only 5 metres swum, but a width! Exciting. You could see in his face he was just testing us to show how he would only do what he wanted when he wanted. He was even happy to swim round holding his bubba float behind his head like a pillow…although not without me supporting his bottom up! Don’t think he’s quite got the lift your tummy up technique yet.
It was a busy lesson. Even the parents had to swim as we had the full length of the swimming pool to play with, so the children had to swim the length of the pool on their front (with woggle). So deep end meant not only swimming ahead of N, but then treading water at the other end. Have you ever tried treading water, holding on to a woggle and trying to shove your child out of the pool at the same time? It’s a lot harder than you’d think. Add a couple of big jumps in and then swimming back down again. So pretty much 50 metres of swimming for little pre-schooler legs.
I’m really chuffed for N. I’m not sure he really understands what getting his first swimming badge means, but hopefully once it arrives and we can stitch it on his towel, he’ll be more excited). I think at the moment, N’s got the bigger aim of persuading his dad to come and watch him swimming (I think taking him swimming might be a step too far!), plus his Gran and his aunt.
Next step is to get him star floating on his back. He struggles with the concept of lying still – he thinks that he needs to keep kicking, so just sinks if I let go. While we watch several of the other children floating on by with no support whatsoever.
What are my 5 ways to get children swimming on their back?
1. Use props – collect bath or swim toys and get them to swim with them on their tummy or chest.
2. Cheat (using number 1) – N just wanted to shove the toys up his rash vest to stop them falling off. Whatever works for him, I say! Hopefully he’ll not be the child who cheats at holding the egg on the spoon in egg & spoon races.
3. Give them encouragement – I read an article recently that quieter children need less extreme congratulations and well dones, compared with extrovert children. Not sure how this works which worked best for a toddler or pre-schooler, but let’s face it, everyone likes to be told they’ve done a good job. Encouragement has helped N all the way along, but I do think you can overdo it sometimes. I praise him afterwards, but also talk to him and coach him through it – he does need reminding to kick sometimes, especially when he’s just drifting and not really going anywhere – mixing it up is good.
4. Stand well back but still where they can see you. If you stand too close they don’t feel independent (I’m talking independent 3 year olds here rather than babies), plus they’ll just be able to flip and grab you. Standing just ahead of where they’re going and slightly to the side so they can still see you without tipping their head round into the water, still gives them confidence that they’re not on their own.
5. Show them how easy it is and how you can do it too. Bit of a problem if you can’t swim, but find someone who can to swim alongside. Or give them someone to chase.
Do you have any tips for helping children along – swimming or otherwise?
Disclosure: We blog for Water Babies, although all words and opinions are our own.