There were 3,533 fatal drownings in the years 2005 to 2009 -- a rate of around 10 per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children aged 1 to 4 have the highest risk, but your 5-year-old could still be injured in the water if he doesn't know how to swim. Whether you put you kindergartner in swimming lessons or you plan on teaching your child yourself, you can support your child's ability to swim with games and activities that help teach him the basics.
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If your 5-year-old has little experience in the water, he'll first need to learn about blowing bubbles. Show him how to push water out of his nose before you even get in the water -- you can put your hand in front of his nose to see if air is coming out. Then, practice blowing bubbles through the mouth once in the water. As your child becomes more comfortable, you can ask him to dip his nose under the water and blow to create bubbles. This skill will help him stay calm and know what to do when his face is in the water.
Face the Water
One of the first skills children should learn is the ability to put their faces in the water. Being comfortable with water on and in his ears, eyes, nose and face can be difficult for some children, so try games that get his head underwater and his face wet without him realizing it. For instance, you could have your child put his hand on his head and then bob low enough so that his hand gets wet or try playing "Ring Around the Rosie" and having him put his face or head underwater when you sing "All fall down."
Your 5-year-old probably has an active imagination, so attaching swimming skills to imagery helps your little one understand the proper positioning and action. For instance, Beth Jenkins, a swim instructor for the University of Florida, suggests starting with "Superman glides" -- asking your child to put his arms and legs out as if he were flying and then kicking his legs while you support him from the belly. Or, you could try teaching the basic arm stroke -- sometimes called the "doggy paddle" -- by imagining that his hands are ice cream scoops and he's scooping ice cream back to his chest.
Kindergartners love to hear specific praise to gauge how they're doing, so swimming lessons should always be accompanied by a healthy dose of positivity, suggests the Butler University Department of Recreation. Be specific in your praise so your 5-year-old knows what he's doing right, such as "Good job blowing those bubbles when you went underwater -- I could see them!" This helps your 5-year-old become more confident in the water, as well as making swim lessons enjoying and engaging.