Toddlers are naturally curious about the world around them, and they crave and enjoy opportunities to be independent. They need our attention and unconditional love as parents, but they need to test the limits and boundaries too - life becomes pretty full on.
But toddler plus swimming is a brilliant, fun and exciting combination. Here are some things to think about when you take your little one to the pool:
1. It's a perfect opportunity to give them your undivided attention. There are no distractions in the pool - no dishes to wash, no laundry to do...it's just you and your child. Swimming is such a brilliant bonding time for babies and toddlers with their parents, not least because you're learning a new skill together.
2. Some toddlers are naturally fearful of the water, while others crave independence and want to escape away from mum or dad to explore on their own. If you can find a way for this to happen, go with it! Woggles are perfect for this, as long as you stay close to catch them if they wriggle away. Likewise, if they want cuddles, enjoy them and don't force anything. You may have to go and watch a few lessons before getting in yourselves - take things at the child's pace.
3. Remember that you're their mirror - if your face and shoulders are clear of the water, they'll copy. Keep low in the water and show them how much you enjoy blowing bubbles and ducking your head under.
4. Toddlers are just learning to find their balance on land - and being in water suddenly adds a whole new dimension to the skills they're learning. They've just learnt about gravity and now it's all muddled up again. Give them opportunities to feel grounded by letting them push with their feet from the wall, or placing your flat hands on the soles of their feet when they kick or swim to help them feel more secure.
5. EXPLORE! Toddlers need to pour water and play with objects that float or sink - they need to learn more about their new, watery environment. Give them space to play and discover.
6. Let them find their balance - if you hold them too tightly or keep them high out of the water they won't be able to learn to float and kick. Support them as little as possible and always, always aim to keep their shoulders under.
7. No water skill is nearly as importance as water confidence. If they don't want to go on their backs, don't force it - wait for them to be ready. The same goes for jumping in, going under and moving away from you. We want them to LOVE the water and feel happy and confident in the pool - everything else comes later. Listen to them - their "no" does mean "no" - but don't think it means forever (more about that here)! They can change their minds minutes, hours or weeks later!
In my lessons I use routines, activities and songs to help toddlers really enjoy their time in the water. I love this age group, they have so much energy and spontaneity and they're changing and developing all the time!