As the Fall semester kicks off and new parents hop in the pool with their swimmers for the first time, it’s important to recognize how to get in and out of the water, safely. The simple act of getting in and out of the pool will set the tone for each lesson and ensure that you and your swimmer are remaining as in control as possible within the environment you’re working in. This is especially important when your swimmer is between 6 months and 3 years old because younger swimmers are going to develop habits that they’ll take with them as they progress towards independence in the water.
Parents, if you’re swimmer isn’t walking yet, more likely than not, you’re going to be holding them as you enter the pool area. Using the ladder to get into the pool while holding onto your swimmer is definitely NOT an option as you’re putting yourself and your swimmer at risk of slipping and falling in, or falling backwards onto the deck. I’ve seen too many parents who put too much weight in their ability to multitask and end up injuring themselves or their swimmers and it’s never something we want to experience in or out of the water.
To properly get in the pool, have yourself and your swimmer sitting (or lying down if they’re unable to sit independently) next to each other. If your swimmer is on your right hand side, cross your left arm over them as you twist and slide into the water. Vice versa if your swimmer is on the left. This way, you’ve put something between them and the water to prevent them from falling forward as you slide in. After you’re safely in the pool and ready for them to enter, there are two ways of having them follow you into the pool.
The first way is to encourage them (physically if they’re not developmentally capable, or verbally if they can physically support themselves) to roll onto their bellies, and shimmy down into the water to hold the wall independently with both hands. I stress the independence around this because we need our swimmers to understand what their body weight feels like as they enter and exit the water without physical support from an adult.
The second way is to have them fall forward, leading from their chest into your hands. This “Humpty-Dumpty” approach is appropriate when the water is deep enough for them to fall forward and after they’re given the cue that it’s safe to enter. To help initiate this, you’ll want to have your hands under your swimmers’ armpits, leaning them forward from their chest to teach them not to slide their bottom off the wall, potentially bumping their head in the process. The MOST IMPORTANT part to entering the water via “Humpty-Dumpty” is to make sure that you’re bringing your swimmer back to the wall to hold on with both hands after they’ve fallen into your hands. We NEED to train our swimmers to understand that turning around and grabbing the wall is what keeps them safe in the water. If a swimmer isn’t trained in this process and experience falling into the pool, they’re more likely to see the wall opposite to that which they fell in from and attempt to make it to that side. With drowning being the second leading cause of death in America for people ages 1-14, this isn’t a risk we should be willing to take. It’s imperative for us to enforce swimming back to the wall after a safe entry every single time the action is taken.
Entering a pool, safely is a simple way to encourage patience, caution and effectiveness around a body of water and setting this tone before every lesson will help to create the appropriate habits we want our swimmers to use to keep themselves safe. Let me know what other ways you and your swimmer work together in group or private lessons to maintain safety around the pool.