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3 tips for making the most of toddler swimming lessons

Earlier this fall Jeff and I decided to enroll Eleanor in swimming lessons to start getting her used to the water and perhaps even learn a few safety skills. How’d it go? Let’s just say…. not exactly as we had planned ;)

It was a rocky start, but over our seven week session we learned some great ways to make the most of our lessons. By the last lesson Eleanor even had a smile on her face. If your child was born with fins, this post is not for you. However, if your tot screams bloody murder when her toes touch the pool, keep reading!

toddler swimming lessons
1. Stay IN the water

Toddlers are smart. It doesn’t take long for them to recognize (and exploit) a simple cause and effect. Scream like crazy = mom takes me out of the pool. We made this mistake at our first lesson. Eleanor was sobbing and we took her out to calm her down. Now imagine how pissed she was when we tried to get her back in. Not good. She was pretty sure that the louder she screamed, the faster we would take her out of the pool.

After that we made a rule to stay in the pool for the ENTIRE lesson. No exceptions. It worked! Yes, she started each lesson in tears, but when she realized that they were pointless, she eventually calmed down and saved her energy for more productive tasks (like splashing me in the face).

toddler swimming lessons
2. YOU know your toddler

I know a lot about my Little Miss Sass pictured up above.  And you know your little one – including what calms down your tot at home. Use that same insight in the pool. You know how we stayed in the pool for the whole lesson? Well we weren’t just standing there letting her scream. I sang, danced, bounced, tickled, peek-a-booed, and quizzed her on all her favorite animal sounds. Distraction and redirection were the biggest tools at my disposal. Yes, I looked like a fool, but I used what I knew.

toddler swimming lessons
3. Don’t overreact 

Stress breeds stress. Try to keep your cool so that your toddler doesn’t feed off your nervous energy. Swimming is a totally new situation for them, and they’ll be looking to you for feedback. Staying zen through a toddler meltdown is easier said than done, but remember that every other parent in that pool has been in your shoes at one time or another.

Did we accomplish what I thought we would in swimming lessons? No. Did I see progress? Yes. Am I happy we participated? Absolutely!

We’ll take the rest of the winter to do informal swimming fun with Eleanor and revisit swimming lessons again in late Spring. Mostly I want Eleanor to develop a healthy fear of water (it’s a dangerous place) as well as some basic life saving skills. And yes, of course actually learning to swim is on that list somewhere too :)

Your turn:

Do your kids take swimming lessons?
Any recommendations for kids who aren’t naturals in the water?

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