Preparing Your Toddler {And Yourself} for Successful Swim Lessons

So, I decided it was time to throw my toddler into the pool. In Houston, pools are everywhere; it seemed like a good idea to teach some pool safety and strategies. Also, all signs pointed go and that the timing was right for M’s first class:

  1. Bath time was basically a swim session where more water lands out of the tub than in, as she perfected her back stroke.
  2. She flipped out when her friend leaves play dates to go “swimming” and cried for hours to “go swimming with Addison!”
  3. She LOVED the ocean last summer, and we couldn’t keep her out.

I spoke to Addison’s mom {my dear friend Janie} for the details on an awesome local swim school and signed up  immediately. I kept thinking how great it was to take on our first class and how much M would love it!

What I didn’t keep in mind is that this is a 2-year-old, a fickle creature where logic, reasoning, and rationale only work when you are bribing them with chocolate to utilize these faculties. In the end it took us 3 attempts to get her in the pool without mama, and this is how it went…

Step 1 :: First Swim Class Expectations

So I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I totally screwed up step one. The main hurdles were as a 2-year-old, M was entered into a Toddler 1 class that has no parents in the water. Also, despite being potty trained for over 5 months, she was required to wear a swim diaper. As a parent I KNEW once she got in the water my kid would love it; I just didn’t think about the challenge of getting her in. 

I rushed to get her from daycare early — disrupting her routine on the day of our first class. I tried to excite her about going swimming, which had the adverse effect. Then we arrived late to a new pool filled with parents and kids running around. I whipped out a new swimsuit I bought that day {without her input}, and she looked at me … and completely melted down. I couldn’t even get her clothes off. When she saw the diaper in the bag she grabbed it screaming, “NO DIAPER! I BIG GIRL! NO SWIMMING!” Hidden smirks and looks of sympathy peppered the parents watching their little water nymphs frolic in the pool as my little crab threw an epic tantrum. Taking a breath … I let it go. I sat down in a chair and watched the kids playing and slowly a curious M wandered near. I put her on my lap and explained what the kids were doing, why she had to wear a diaper, and that she didn’t have to go in today. We sat through her class and also the next one. We left with a shared promise we would try again next week.

Step 1 Results :: A bit poorly executed, but expectations were set.  Sort of.

Step 2 :: Get in the Pool

I just knew I had to get her in the pool for her to know she LOVED it. Lucky for me, Houston Moms Blog was hosting a swim play date with Goldfish Swim School that Sunday. We were able to go with M’s bestie Addison and our sweet neighbors down the street. The promises of swimming with Addison got her to hop into the swim diaper and her new swimsuit {a whale suit she chose} with no fuss. We arrived just as Janie and Addison did, and the girls were excited. M hesitated a bit at seeing a mass of kids and parents in the pool, but sweet Addison took her hand and pulled her along. With Janie and Addison leading the way, I simply picked M up and walked in with her in my arms before she could panic. Once she felt the warm water on her, a smile began to emerge. Addison was so excited to show M all her tricks, and M was eager to learn. Janie did a great job of walking the girls through routines they learned in swim class. In no time M was sitting on the edge of the pool and jumping into my arms! In fact, it was hard to get her OUT of the pool.

Step 2 Results :: Get into the pool – check!

Step 3 :: Solo Swim Success

A week passed, and it was time for our next class. I talked to M that morning about picking her up early and going swimming. When I arrived at daycare, she quickly told her teacher we were going swimming. I changed her into her suit and diaper at school where she was comfortable. We arrived right on time, and I walked into her lane and found her teacher. As soon as she began to realize I wasn’t going in, and there was no Addison or Ms. Janie, she began shrinking against the back wall. I simply asked again, “Do you want to swim?” She nodded yes, and I handed her over. Then, I mustered every ounce of parenting wisdom gained in two years as a solo parent, added my understanding M’s deep attachment to me but ability to adapt when she had to, and I made a choice.

I ran off and hid. Not joking.

Luckily, my mom was with me, and she sat where M could see her so she didn’t feel abandoned. Still, I put myself out of sight. She looked around for me, but the instructor did an AMAZING job engaging her that within 5 minutes she was laughing and learning to float. I slowly came out of hiding, and she waved at me with a, “HI MOMMY! I SWIMMING.” Kid was a natural: diving in, head under, kicking on floats. And a smile every second. When I picked her up, she was SO proud and has only asked me 57487554897182472 times a day to go swimming.

Step 3 :: Success.

Thanks to HMB and Goldfish Swim for hosting the play date, and Miss Janie and Addison for getting M into the pool!

The American Association of Pediatrics says children can safely take swim lessons as early as age 1. Until 2010, the AAP had specified this number as age 4, but when research showed a reduced risk of drowning in preschoolers who had taken swimming lessons, the organization amended its advice on Jun 30, 2014.

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