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Can Your Toddler Swim?

First, some disclosures. I do not like the water all that much. I don’t like getting my hair wet. I don’t like bathing suits. I hate the sun. (Pasty skin will do that to you.)

Second, my big girl inherited my “love” of the water. I did not do this to her. My husband, a water loving guy who spends his life on boats and in pools, encouraged her to swim as a baby. But she never liked it until last year when she joined a local swim team. Third: My big girl attended swim lessons for four years. The combination of intense fear and a rudimentary knowledge of what to do if she fell in meant my big girl was relatively safe around water. She would never go in alone, and if she fell in she knew, after hours and hours of lessons, what to do to save herself.

My little girl is the complete opposite of her sister. She has absolutely no fear of the water. My big girl would scream if she got even a sprinkle of water on her face. The little one screams to go into the shower and, once there, looks up into the falling water laughing and smiling. In the bathtub the big one always asked to have a washcloth close by to dry her eyes should they get wet. The little one ages me every time she throws herself under the water trying to swim. It’s so bad I have to sit on the edge of the tub with my feet in the water while I am bathing her. With my feet in I can move more swiftly to pull her out. She wants to swim and doesn’t care if, when she submerges her entire head, she drinks a little water. (Which she does several times during every bath.) This is why I was especially interested in the updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) related to swimming. (It’s also why she takes a lot of showers.)

The AAP’s stance used to be that toddlers — kids between the ages of 1 and 3 — shouldn’t take organized swim lessons, a fact that haunted me every time my big girl stepped into the swim class. Today, however, it reversed its stance saying that everyone over a year should take a swim class. From the press release: “New evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. The studies are small, and they don’t define what type of lessons work best, so the AAP is not recommending mandatory swim lessons for all children ages 1 to 4 at this time. Instead, the new guidance recommends that parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child’s frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health concerns related to pool water infections and pool chemicals.”

So someone like my little girl, who lives in a beach community, rides on a boat every weekend and is so strong that she can do a basket hang on the uneven bars BY HERSELF should absolutely be learning to swim. And she will be. I had enrolled her a while back, but work got in the way. I had a credit that I needed to use so I recently signed her up for classes. One-on-one once a week for six weeks. I’m sure we’ll have to continue them, too, since she’s intent on spending the entire summer splashing around in a pool.

Of course, even with the lessons I intend on following the AAP’s other guidance: never leaving her alone for a second and keeping her in a life preserver while we’re on the boat — stuff that’s even more important for my little fearless swimming wanna be.

Do you swim? Do your kids? How am I going to spend the summer in the pool when I hate it…sigh…

2 Responses to “Can Your Toddler Swim?”

  1. Shari says:

    Sounds like you WILL be in the pool this summer so put on that bathing suit proudly and pin up your hair in a bun. You will also be teaching your daughter a second lesson about self confidence :)

  2. Kerri says:

    My big girl is just like your big girl in the water…and my little girl is just like your little girl. Wonder if there is something to the birth order?!!

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