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The Top 5 Swimming Mistakes Parents Make

The Top 5 Swimming Mistakes Parents Make

Did you know drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 5 in the state of Florida? Here are some great tips and tricks for water safely.

by Carolyn Nash | Body-Mind Aquatics

Feature image | Tommy Wong

Teaching our kids to swim is one of the more important childhood activities on par with staying out of the street. Being capable of swimming is key when living in Florida. Strong swimmers can swim easily, without becoming tired, and swim all all six strokes for a minimum of 300 yards in open water. Helping kids stay safe and reach the skill level of a strong swimmer can be tough, but avoiding these common mistakes will help. 


  1. Be Nervous about Pouring Water Over Baby’s Head.
    When babies are born, they have a reflex to hold their breath in water just as they did in the womb. It slowly disappears by 3 months, so begin washing their hair and face by gently and joyfully pouring water over their head when they are infants. Your reaction is key. Always respond with happiness and praise. Of course, be mindful that they don’t take in water in, but a gentle, slow pour of water over the crown for a short period of time will be fine for most babies. Celebrate the event jubilantly with clapping and cheering. After their reflex is gone and they grow, kids might develop a dislike for water on their face. Some kids and babies never seem to like it, but continue with compassion, gentleness, confidence, joy, and a matter-of-fact-of-life attitude.
  2. Use Goggles
    When kids learn to put their face in the water and swim with goggles, it can become a crutch. Even kids who can swim well can fall or jump in without their goggles on and think they can’t swim. All of a sudden, you have a life threatening situation with a swimmer. The best rule is: no goggles until they swim well with open eyes under water for a long while. Luckily Body Mind Aquatics’ pool is a non-chlorine, low chemical pool. Ask us or a natural pool professional about how to have a non-chlorine, low chemical pool. (Hint: UV lights help greatly).
  3. Use Floaties
    Mostly, floaties teach the swimmers to swim in more of a vertical (or diagonal) position and often with bicycle-kicking. Unfortunately, a little swimmer can tire quickly with this position, making it even more dangerous for open water swimming. Efficient swimming happens in a perfectly balanced, horizontal position with more of a straight leg kick. Breaking these habits can be hard especially when they are big and strong and have done this for a while. Not using floaties can seem hard and even unsafe, BUT floaties are *not* good safety devices. Children must be watched closely when they have them on. Lifejackets that make the swimmer float face-up are far better safety devices. You can use life jackets for any safety situation, even putting them on over your kids clothes whenever there is water and distractions around, like at parties.
  4. Teach Bubble Blowing to Babies and Toddlers.
    After babies lose the reflex to hold their breath, they can have a hard time going under water. But overcoming these challenges with fun bubbles is not the way to go. Babies and toddlers do not have the control to exhale and blow bubbles for a long period of time. Instead, they can learn to hold their breath again for much longer. Some learn to hold water in their mouth and spit it out. Some learn to swallow. Watch the ones that swallow water. Babies need to not ingest too much water. Three times swallowing water is enough. Big bellies are a sign to get out as well. Talk to your physician more about how much water is safe for your baby. When in doubt, wait till professionals are around to help. In the end, teaching to hold their breath is better. Try games of humming, then hum with your lips in the water. Kiss the water with lips together. Pretend to put balloons in your cheeks, and put your un-popped balloons in the water.
  5. Swim With More Kids Than You Can Handle.
    The amount of kids that one adult can handle depends on the kids (and the adult). Daredevils that aren’t efficient at rolling and floating might need supervision on a one-to-one ratio. Two mellow kids that stand in only a little bit of water and stay on the stairs might be ok for one person. Baby and toddler combinations can be hard. Wait till you have more adults.


Start with Water Orientation and Swim Lessons early and SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH!

Gentle, baby-paced swim lessons can help babies learn skills automatically from repeating and progressing through swim skills. These skills help a child develop healthy coordination and confidence on all levels. Be wary of aggressive lessons that push the child to learn fast regardless of screaming and crying. They often skip key progressive steps and put the child in constant fight-or-flight experiences that create damaging high cortisol levels in the brain which can affect cognitive and emotional development later in life. As a coach for twenty years, I have noticed over and over again that when kids overcome fear and heal from these water traumas, their entire personality becomes more confident and healthy.

Learn CPR and First Aid for infants, children, and adults

Learn to swim well.

Note: Please, read our article on bath tub and baby pool practice tips. Never leave two kids together in the bath, especially babies and older kids. Play can lead to accidents. It is tempting for me to leave my daughter to get something or be productive for getting ready for bed, but I remind myself to make bath time a time to connect, play and have fun together.



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