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Kids and Fun in the Pool – Sort of

Updated on June 27, 2012

For many children, there is a certain phase in the first years of life, during which going in the water “for fun” is equal to - or even worse than - getting a shot at a checkup. I experienced it with my kids at different ages and in different forms and had ample opportunity to watch various scenarios in other families.

My older one has been comfortable in a pool environment ever since we introduced him when he was a couple of months old. And with comfortable I mean things like jumping from the edge with no floaties and no idea how to stay afloat. The ocean was a different story. It was actually a little bit tougher for both of them. To feel sort of relaxed and not be afraid of even the tiniest wave, which seemed to be the main reason of their fear, the older one had to be about four years old, the younger one about three years. I think it has a lot to do with the physical ability of “mastering” the wave (meaning knowing how to get out of it by yourself once it rolls you over).

Now we are lucky to live in a region with constantly comfortable temperatures and have access to pleasant water pretty much all year round, but for a couple of reasons we had to take an almost one year long “water break”. Before that my younger one was fine in the pool as an infant, but when trying to get her back into the water (she was about two years old), there was no way of getting neither close to a pool nor the ocean. Beach meant sand only, wet sand at best. And pool – she would not even get her toes wet.

The usual copy-the-older-sibling-mechanism failed completely of course, like with most of the useful things they are supposed to imitate.

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Squids and ducks

The only thing that worked was to give her time and find something in the meantime. What definitely helped in our case was a rubber duck (a trick that I learned when watching a swim class), one of those colorful bulb squid lures (one of the bigger ones) - but I guess any of their favorite, water resistant toy will do the job.

We tried approaching both, beach and pool, pretty much at the same time, starting with the rubber ducky for the pool. Ducks like to swim, little kids like to through, so why not combine those in the water? Eventually after about two months and many tries, she would get more and more comfortable in the water and even started putting her head under. The squid worked for the ocean, starting of course with a calm beach. One nice side benefit was as soon as she did not mind getting her face wet, the hair wash procedure in the shower got much smoother as well.

Goggles and Rings

When working our way to the next big step – diving down – goggles and some dive toys (pool rings in our case) did the trick. Everybody feels more comfortable when they can see, same goes for underwater. Once she tried them on, she felt even comfortable diving into the pool all by herself or found it fun getting rolled over by a wave. I never used floaties, only swim rings if it occasionally needed to be. There are certainly situations where they are very valuable, no doubt, but I had the feeling that they would delay my kids’ ambition to swim on their own.

They still cannot swim a certain style (ok, doggy paddle style), but for me the most important thing was that they can keep themselves afloat long enough for me to either get to them or to reach the edge of the pool by themselves in time. The rest will come in time – maybe even this summer.

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