From the first bath, the bathtub is an excellent opportunity to prepare a child for swimming! Never leave a child unattended in the bath, of course! But make bath time FUN and a BEAUTIFUL LEARNING EXPERIENCE!
Play in the bath mostly before any soap or shampoo enters the scene. Soap in the eyes and mouth is never fun!
Make sure the water is at a comfortable temperature and warm it up again if playtime is extended and the water becomes cool.
Clean Water In The Eyes
Splash and sing and laugh! Do NOT be afraid to let water splash on your child’s face! Teach your child to “Blink, blink, blink the water away!” with words and modeling. Pour water over your own face and “Blink, blink, blink the water away!” Please refrain from teaching your child to wipe their eyes with a towel when clean water gets in them.
Water In The Ears
Lie your child face up in a shallow tub well before he learns to sit up (when possible) and allow water to fill his ears. It is an unusual sensation that takes some getting used to but is easiest in younger babies. (They’re already used to that sensation in utero.) Do NOT dribble water into your baby’s nose when he’s on his back! Play with fun toys above Baby’s head while Baby is on his back to sustain the position and place a warm towel on his tummy if he may be a little chilled.
For toddlers who can sit up and who are not comfortable on their backs, have them position themselves in a crawling position and put one ear at a time into the water to “Listen for the fishies!”
When Baby or Toddler is comfortable lying on her back in the water with ears underwater, increase the depth of the water to allow them to float. Hold a favorite toy overhead and keep the child’s head tipped back (chin up). Roll a small towel and place it under the small of your child’s back to keep tummy up, too. Play nap time in the tub and encourage him or her to let their arms and legs totally relax and float like a leaf (with eyes closed, when possible). Sing a lullaby. Make sure the water is comfortable, and your child is very relaxed. This may take some time and will happen only when they are very comfortable in the water.
Spit, Don’t Swallow
With a clean cup of water, teach Baby to spit water out. Do this when brushing teeth, too! In the tub/pool, we say, “Water in the mouth, SPIT it out.” (But never on another person!). Aim at floating toy boats or such, and eventually take water from the clean tub without a cup to practice the accidental intake of water in a pool and spit it OUT! Teach your child the word “swallow” when eating or drinking, and teach your child NOT to swallow (but to spit it out) when in the tub or pool.
Practice Submersion Readiness
**BEFORE POURING, described below, say, “Name, Ready, Go!” (and pause a moment), then pour water from her forehead down the front of her face.
Pouring: When a baby or toddler is sitting upright in a bath seat or on the tub floor, use a cup of clean water to pour water over their face running from the forehead down the front of the face. Do NOT allow Baby to tip head back, letting the water run up their nose. Keep initial pours very brief and gradually (over days and weeks) increase the length of the pour to about 5-10 seconds (You may need a small pitcher for this!). Do this at least 3 times in every bath, and remember to “Blink, blink, blink the water out” (Do NOT wipe eyes with a towel.) Toddlers often like to pour water over Mommy’s or Daddy’s heads and will pour water over their own heads as well! Make it a FUN GAME! We will know that your baby is ready to go underwater when she closes her eyes and mouth at the prompt, “Name, Ready, Go!”. Be very consistent with your timing and sequence of this phrase, and be sure to have a brief pause after the word “GO.” Show great excitement and enthusiasm! Cheer! Try to say, “You did it!” vs. “good job.” At One with the Water, we teach using a Growth Mindset, and we never say good job! We applaud effort, showing our children what the results of hard work can be.
Teach Your Child To Swim
Drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4. Teach your child to swim early or find a qualified instructor and always supervise your child. Accidental drownings happen in minutes. At One with the Water, our goal isn’t just drowning prevention and water safety. We want to help you instill in your child a life-long sense of empowerment, confidence, and success in the water. Sign up for infant swim lessons, and see what your baby can do!
Molly is a member of our creative team, mom of four water-loving babies, and a fierce advocate for CPR training and really early swim instruction.