10 Bath Time Tips to Help Ease a Child's Fear of Swimming

8:45 PM

Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made, but when it comes to swimming some children find themselves taken by more "fear" than wonder. Bath time provides a great opportunity for parents to help ease those fears as they prepare to take swimming lessons.

Before taking the plunge with your little one talk to them about their fear. You may know about a bad experience that happened to your child. You can talk about that event while being positive. Encourage them to respect the water while reminding them that it is also important to know how to swim.

Some children have never had a bad experience. Others may have gotten soap in their eyes during a bath, and they could be fearful that any water will burn their eyes. Often parents fear the water, and children pick up on those fears. While you may not know or understand why your child fears water, it is important to acknowledge their fear and remain positive. Reassure them with your confidence in them by saying something like, "I know it is hard, but I believe you can do it."

Here are 10 tips to help ease your child's fears with bath time:

1. Keep it calm. If your child normally bathes with an active brother or sister, take time to bathe the child by himself or herself. Try not to rush them, and always supervise young children in the bathtub. Don't try all of these suggestions during one bath time. Take small steps and praise each little accomplishment along the way.

2. Keep soap out of their eyes. Take a break from bubble baths while trying to ease fears. When shampooing use tear-free shampoo. Tell them to look up to the ceiling and use a dry rag to cover their eyes when rinsing shampoo.

3. Encourage them to touch their face with water. Begin by asking them to cup water in their hands and touch their cheeks with it. Then ask them to put their chin in their cupped hands of water.

4. Move a duck or boat. Have them lie on their belly, put a toy like a small ducky or boat in front of them and ask them to move the toy by blowing it. Make it fun. See how fast they can blow it to the end of the tub. As they feel more comfortable challenge them to touch their chin to the water and blow the toy.

5. Make bubbles with a straw. Bring a straw to bath time and ask your child to make bubbles by blowing through the straw. Remind them that this is not a drinking straw but a bubble straw. Next bath time bring the straw after you've cut a couple of inches off of it, and ask them to make bubbles again. Continue to cut the straw until their faces are a little closer to the water, but don't cut the straw shorter than three or four inches because it could become a choking hazard! Always closely supervise children with smaller straws.

6. Blow bubbles. Once your child seems comfortable blowing bubbles through a straw throw it away, and encourage them to try to put their chin in the water to make bubbles by blowing. Next, challenge your child to put their mouth into the water to blow bubbles.

7. Lie on their back. An important skill in learning to swim is floating on the back. Fill the up the tub high enough that your child's ears will be submerged while lying on his or her back. Encourage your child to lie down on his or her back and try to relax. Some children will resist getting their ears wet, but in order to float on one's back the ears must be submerged under the water. Slowly and calmly encourage them to try. I sometimes make silly jokes with children while assisting them as they float on their backs by making snoring noises pretending they've fallen asleep because they are so relaxed.

8. Make big cheeks. Ask your child to put his or her lips together tightly and make their cheeks "big" and hum while blowing air out his or her nose. Encourage them to lie on their belly and do this while putting their chin in the water. As they seem more comfortable, challenge them to make big cheeks and put their mouth in the water. Eventually they may find enough courage to put both their mouth and nose in the water while making big cheeks and humming. Some may even put their whole face in the water.

9. Squeeze a wet rag on their head. Many children are fearful of putting their eyes under the water. Even if their eyes are closed underwater, they do not like the water dripping into their face when they come up for air. Once your child is comfortable, encourage them to take a wet rag and squeeze it on top of their head to let the water drip down. Instruct them to "blink, blink, blink" their eyes to clear the water rather than rubbing them with their hands. This will help prepare them when they are learning to swim. They will not be able to stop and rub their eyes while trying to swim.

10. Try the shower. Some children actually do better getting their heads wet in the shower. Ask your child if he or she would like to try getting wet under the shower. If your child is standing be careful to keep them from slipping. When they seem comfortable encourage them to try to put their head in the water spray and then "blink, blink, blink" their eyes. Not all children will prefer this, but some actually feel braver experimenting with water in the shower.

Try these suggestions at home to help ease fear and prepare your reluctant child for swimming lessons. Who knows, your child might just fill you with wonder as they overcome their fear.

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