Fun, health and an essential life skill – swimming provides all these together.
It is wise to begin early(though not before three) because as the child grows the fear sets and the child may become more adamant. When the child is around three years of age take the child to the toddler/baby pool and let them play freely. As they play they overcome the fear of water. At the same time they also get inspired as they observe older children and adults swimming around them. When the child gets comfortable in the water and shows her eagerness to learn, gradually she should start training. Learning to swim usually begins with breathing lessons like holding your breath and dipping the head in water, holding the pool rod and holding the body afloat with leg movements, floating etc. Gradually the child learns to swim with floaters, tube etc. and finally learns to swim without any accessory.
Swimming has several benefits.
1. Life skill- Swimming is an essential life skill. It is not only necessary to learn for those who live near water sources, but also others to be prepared for any emergency.
2. Exercise with fun- Kids are generally averse to taking up regular exercises like yoga. In such cases swimming is a perfect option because it exercises the body in the guise of fun in water.
3. Easy on the body- The water supports the body and so the body feels light. The strain or impact on body/joints is less in water than on land. Swimming exercises the body without straining. Therefore kids do not consider it as exercise but pure fun in water.
4. Muscle strength- Resistance of water makes the muscles work hard. The hand and leg movements, while swimming, helps in building muscle mass and promotes proportional muscular development. Arms become strong.
5. Respiratory fitness- The lung capacity/ lung functioning improves considerably with swimming as it involves control of breathing. Initially children may catch cold, but they get used to the water as the immunity improves. As the strength of lungs improve with swimming, respiratory diseases become less.
6. Cardio exercise- Swimming improves the oxygen consumption which leads to better functioning of the heart.
7. Enhances natural flexibility- The various movements/strokes of the body enhances the natural flexibility of the body. A flexible body helps quick, spontaneous physical reaction, necessary in almost all sports and dance. The flexibility attained from swimming thus helps in excelling in other fields.
8. Mind-body co-ordination- The rhythmic movement of swimming requires co-ordination between not just hands and legs, but the whole body is involved in it. The lungs control breathing, the neck and back moves constantly from one side to other with the stroke. The mind has to control and c-ordinate all these movements so that the body can float and move forward. This is one major reason for which swimming is prescribed for autistic children.
9. Improves mental ability- By improving the mind body co-ordination and breathing and increasing oxygen consumption, swimming strengthens the mental faculties of the child. It increases alertness, concentration and perceptual abilities.
10. Learn to set goals & a sense of achievement- See the smile on the child’s face when she is finally able to swim, even if just four- five strokes! It inspires her to swim more and more. As the child learns to swim, he himself sets goals for himself to improve his swimming skills, like better strokes, covering greater distance, increasing speed etc. This he applies in other fields too and tries to achieve his goals with self inspiration.
11. Burns calories- Swimming is a great way to burn calories and tone the body. It is very good exercise option for all ages as it is gentle on the body. The resistance of water works out all parts of the body, while the buoyancy of water prevents straining.
12. Injury free- Swimming is the most injury free of all sports which are played on land.
13. Improves appetite- Appetite improves with swimming as it involves physical workout and leads to general overall health improvement.
14. Family bonding- Swimming together is a great way of family bonding. You get your required exercise and you also get to play and teach the kids to swim.
1. Adult supervision- Adult supervision is a must when children are swimming, however trained the kids may be. Watch out for exhaustion, diving in shallow water, breathlessness, going in deeper water etc. Keep watch on the child, even if lifeguards are there. If you have a pool at home, fence it and lock it so that kids cannot enter without your knowledge and permission. Even kids of age ten -twelve, who have learnt to swim well, should not swim alone. Some company should always be there.
2. Learning accessories- Floaters or tubes keep the new learners safe. It also helps them develop confidence to swim.
3. Swimming Goggles- These protect the eyes from water entering into them. It allows the swimmer to keep her eyes open while swimming. Goggles also protect the eyes from diseases like conjunctivitis caused by dirt and also a very infectious disease.
4. Caps- Swimming cap is protects the hair from the ill effects of the chemicals in the water. It also prevents the hair from falling on the eyes while swimming.
5. Infectious diseases- Public swimming pools may become a source of infectious diseases like conjunctivitis, skin diseases, cold etc., as many people use the same pool. Those with any infection should avid the swimming pool to prevent others from catching it.
6. Infection of the intestines- Problems like diarrhea is possible because kids swallow water when still learning.
7. Shower before and after swimming- Showering before entering the pool cleans the body of dirt and germs and also you do not feel cold in the pool. Do not forget to shower properly with a soap, to get off the possible germs from the body, after using a public pool.
8. No meal before swimming- Like any other exercise, swimming should be done on an empty stomach. There should be at least four hour gap between meal and going to swim.
9. Do not swim during rain and thunderstorm- These make the movement of water unpredictable and also dirty.
10. Never dive in shallow water- Depending on the height, never dive in less than five feet water. It may lead to severe head injury.