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Nine tips : How parents teach their children to swim themselves
- 03.07.18, 1.30 p.m.
59 percent of ten-year-old children in Germany cannot swim safely.
picture alliance / Florian Schuh
Too many children learn to swim late today, a fact most parents are aware of. Because there are fewer and fewer swimming pools and therefore fewer club offers and opportunities for swimming lessons in primary school. The beginners’ courses are rare and expensive, the waiting lists are long. And not everyone can (or wants to) afford a club vacation in summer, where a swimming course is part of the children’s entertainment program.
According to the definition of the Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft DLRG, swimming is safe for anyone who has achieved the bronze youth swimming badge (see box on page 5). The seahorse badge, on the other hand, does not mean that a child can swim safely, but is only a first step. The DLRG points out that children with seahorses must also be carefully supervised by water. And warns every year that children’s buoyancy will decrease.
Last year, a Forsa survey commissioned by the DLRG found that the majority (59 percent) of ten-year-old children in Germany cannot swim safely. 2000 people aged 14 and over were interviewed. So what to do? The motivation of many parents is still sufficient for a baby swimming course, but maintaining a regular visit to the swimming pool until primary school is often more difficult. It’s worth it. Firstly, because children can have a lot of fun in the element of water. On the other hand, because getting used to water later makes learning to swim much easier.
And: If you go swimming regularly with your children, you may find out at some point: Why book a course? I can swim – so I can also teach my child to swim. That’s fine!
Here are a few tips on how it can work:
Into the water early and regularly
So that children develop fun in the water element and reduce possible fears, regular water habitation from the age of two is more important than an early baby swimming course. It starts in the bathtub: here parents can already encourage their little ones to put their faces in the water and blow out air. Or lie down and float a little, sometimes lying on your stomach and sometimes on your back. This not only trains a first level of coordination in the water, but ideally also facilitates the hair washing procedure.
After all, there is no way around regular swimming pool visits, ideally parents go to the bathroom with their children once a week. The pure practice as we will introduce below is for children between three and five years and should be limited to 20 to 30 minutes. Because: Free play, splashing around, romping around is also ideal for one constant water habit. And in the swimming pool it is just like in life: without fun, learning is much worse. Children are very different: some are daredevils in the water and love going to the diving station right from the start. They just have to be pulled out from time to time by their parents to take a breath and may be able to swim at the age of four. Others are more careful, struggle with the wet element and prefer to cling to something somewhere. You may not be making your seahorse until you are six. Both are perfectly fine. One thing is certain: With patience and regular practice, every child learns to swim – even with their own parents.
First swimming technique
Experts disagree whether children should first learn breast, crawl, backstroke or a mixture of different swimming techniques. The movement of crawl swimming is easiest, but breathing is a problem. Breathing is easy to breathe, but it is difficult to strike the leg, we call it "frog legs". Back scratching is a good thing and should be installed again and again – just stupid that you cannot see where you are swimming. Our tip for the beginning: Combine strokes (sparkling legs) and chest arm pull (arrow arms).
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Buoyancy aids such as water wings, swimming hoops, swimming belts or life jackets are good and important for free play in the water when children are not yet able to swim (even under supervision!). However, they should always be removed and exchanged for the holding hand of mom or dad so that the child does not forget that it does not actually stay on the water by itself. These swimming aids are less suitable for learning to swim because they influence the water position too much. Then it is worth investing in a swimming noodle and a swimming board.
First diving exercises
Yuck, water on your face !? Those who don’t like it have more problems learning to swim. Therefore, always practice early in the process of dipping your face into the water.
Important when diving: keep your eyes open and not cover your nose.
Kay Nietfeld dpa / lno
First, simply blow your mouth into the water. Later, take your face lower and lower. Important: keep your eyes open and not cover your nose. Otherwise the children do not see the diving ring that they are supposed to bring up for the seahorse. They also need their arms at some point for swimming. If the dwarves become braver, parents can hold out diving rings for them to grab. The child holds on to the edge of the pool or sits on a staircase in the water. Also a nice one common Game: Dive together with the child and give kisses under water or use your fingers to show a number that the child must reproduce after it emerges.
Jump into the water
If you are no longer afraid of water on your face, you can start practicing jumping. This is not only brave, but also great fun. First fall quietly from the edge of the pool into Mama’s or Dad’s arms. A jump from the edge of the pool with a swimming noodle clamped under your arms may work next, which prevents you from diving too deep into the water. The increase: jump from the edge of the pool into a swimming pool shaped like a circle. And finally: jump over a swimming noodle.
A swimming noodle can help you learn to swim.
Shimmy along the edge of the pool
What is it like in deep water? Children who always wear a swimming aid or are held by their parents cannot develop a feeling for their body in the water. Better: from time to time hang along the edge of the pool without a life jacket / wing / ring. Of course mom and dad stay close for safety. Build in a change of direction, sometimes faster and sometimes slower, shimmy past a ladder, sometimes stretch your legs back and kick hard or dip your face in the water and blow air – or both at the same time.
Repel and slide
The greatest difficulty in learning to swim: the correct water position. The children like to hang upside down and feet down in the water, especially swimming tires and water wings dictate this attitude. Life jackets or swimming belts with removable buoyancy elements are more suitable. To practice the shallow water position: hold onto the edge of the pool without a buoyancy aid or sit on a staircase and then push off with both legs and slide to the mom waiting a little away. Sometimes in a supine position ("Belly up!"), Sometimes in a prone position ("Put your face in the water and hands to the arrow and stretch out!", "Like a rocket!"). Face into the water, blow out air and eyes open. Let the distance to the adult get bigger and calmly kick your legs. You can also do this with a swimming noodle or a swimming board – just make sure that your arms are stretched forward and your face is in the water.
The leg blow
Place on the swimming noodle, pull the front bow a little so that a "window" to bubble into the water is created, hold the noodle with your armpits (it takes a bit of coordination), then move forward with "sparkling legs". This can also be practiced sitting on the edge of the pool or on the stairs or prone. It is important in this exercise: make long legs and keep your legs straight, no underwater cycling. Goes supine with mom’s hand under the bottom.
The arm pull
Place on the swimming noodle, this time without a window. Fold your hands in front of your chest to form an arrow, push forward, turn your thumbs down with your arms straight – the most difficult part for most children – and push the water in a large circle with your palms back. The arm pull not only helps the legs to propel, but also keeps the head breathing above water.
The goal of all practice: at some point the child can move around in the water without a buoyancy aid and also take a breath. The little ones are not sure swimmers, but they have the basic skills for the seahorse badge – which can be reduced in many swimming pools by lifeguards. Once this is done, the motivation to stay tuned and continue practicing increases.
Jump from the edge of the pool, swim 25 meters, bring an object out of shoulder-deep water with your hands.
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