Encouraging your child to adopt a healthy lifestyle should include introducing her to fun, physical activities beginning in early childhood. Obesity rates for children have tripled since the 1970s, according to a report published by the American Medical Association. Swimming, an activity for every age, uses the whole body to effectively burn extra calories and promote fitness.
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Age Requirements and Concerns
Until recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended water-safety classes for children under 4. However, due to an increase in toddler drowning deaths, the Academy now recommends children learn to swim as early as 1 year. Other considerations include the impact of your child's development and coordination on his ability to learn and perform a new activity. Swimming uses large muscle groups, such as chest, arms and legs. Because kids develop from the inside out in terms of strength and coordination, new movement patterns are challenging and frustrating. Offer support and patience as they develop their swimming skills.
Bubbles and Basics
Create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for children. Because younger children are less likely to tolerate a cold environment, choose a heated swimming pool. Start with basics such as getting their face wet. Blow bubbles to introduce holding breath and exhaling, or blowing into the water. Next, teach your child to float on her back by supporting her body from underneath and encouraging her to extend her legs and arms.
Once your child becomes comfortable in the water, start to introduce elements of swim strokes using flotation devices, such as a torso float and a handheld kickboard. Across the shallow end of the pool, ask children to flutter kick from one side wall to the other using both the torso float and kickboard. As the child becomes confident, incorporate the forward crawl stroke. Direct him to kick hard and move his arms slowly. This develops his sense of coordination and independent flotation. Next, remove the torso float and use a kickboard for the child to flutter kick across the same distance. This progression develops confidence and strength in the core muscles.
Swimming and Diving Games
Use games to build confidence and motor skills. Toss bright-colored objects that float into the middle of the shallow end of a pool. Ask the child to swim to retrieve the object. Next, throw heavier objects that sink; repeat the same drill. This teaches kids to dive underwater and hold their breath, developing lung capacity and coordination of breathing.