Swimming Q: How to teach to put face in water?? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 03:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We've been really good about taking DD, 3.5 yrs old, to the pool regularly. She's generally been a high-needs, thinks too much, remembers everything kind of kid and unfortunately we've hit a swimming roadblock because of that.

She won't put her face under water to blow bubbles. She 'remembers' getting water up her nose as a toddler in the tub and is traumatized. She loves paddling around but we can't continue with lessons until her head is in the water (they build on that I guess). The last swmming class we were in, the parents were instructed to dunk their kids. We refused, and were the only ones to refuse. 90% of the kids ended up screaming...but the parents kept being told to do it. :

I prefer a gentler approach - any ideas?

Thanks!
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#2 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 06:08 AM
 
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My 4.5 year old won't really put her face in the water either. It's not a big deal for us and I don't think she's getting that much out of the lessons anyway. She will blow bubbles with her mouth and chin in the water, so that's a good start. I think familiarity is all that is needed. My mother learned to swim in her 30's while pregnant. She NEVER puts her face in the water. She was dunked as a kid and didn't learn to swim until she was an adult and my father put a pool in.

I learned to swim above water (dog paddle) around 4-5. I learned to go under water at 5 because my neighbor (a year younger) could do it. I later swimmed with team. I think it's not that big of a deal. Just keep brining her to the pool and maybe try with the lessons again next summer.

Third generation WOHM. I work by choice.
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#3 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 09:35 AM
 
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In the classes we have been taking we didn't do that forced dunking. The method the teacher taught us was to take a plastic watering can, child size and let the children pour water over top of our heads. They even got to do it to the teacher and that was really fun! Before you know it they were doing it to themselves and having a blast. It has taken four months of classes and keeping it fun but my daughter now swins underwater, jumps off the side and is actually quite difficult to keep her out of the water.

I think you are doing the right thing by not dunking her. I would also worry about how she feels seeing it happen to other children and their reactions.
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#4 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 09:38 AM
 
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In DS1's swim class, they started by gently sprinkling water on the kids' heads. We used a little toy watering can and sang a little song (I forget what it was). Start by just getting it on the top of their head, then allow a little bit to get on the face. The next step was to have them put just their lips in to blow bubbles. Then, they did a thing called "eyes in." The teacher held some rings under the water and had the kids put their eyes in in order to see the "treasure" that was in the water. They'd just dunk their faces in real quick. If they wanted, they were allowed to wear goggles. With more and more practice, they were more comfortable with the feel of the water on their faces and putting their faces into the water. They eventually moved on to jumping into the water and going all the way under and swimming behind a kickboard with their faces in, moving their head up to get a breath.

The whole thing was a very gradual process. My son took lessons for two years (from age 1 to 3) and the process I described was ongoing for that time. It was very playful and did not involve any dunking. The kids always had the option of not participating and going at their own pace.
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#5 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 12:39 PM
 
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Let her get there on her own. As a former instructor, I can tell you they don't learn any faster by "forced" dunking, and it just makes them angry. Try what cee3 suggested, having her use a toy watering can, etc. Do LOTS of splashing and encourage her to allow the water to stay on her face - you can play games like Hokey Pokey, Wheels on the Bus, etc. At the pool or in the bathtub, water is going to get on your face, and I found this was always an issue with kids who didn't want their head under - they also disliked water on their face. I encouraged their parents to forgoe wiping their faces for them, or saying "let's get a towel and wipe that off" every time they got a wet face.

Let her set her own pace, and if she's nervous, that's ok. I also like to hold my toddler under the armpits and dunk my own head under and come up right in his face (he's still abovewater while I do it, b/c he's not ready to dunk himself yet), laughing and smiling. He loves it, and he's starting to put his own face down now and do the same thing.
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#6 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 02:17 PM
 
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My son is taking one on one lessons at 3.5 we really lucked out. A friend with a pool and a daughter the same age organized it, once a week we get together at her house and the instructor works with each kid one on one for half an hour while the rest of us have a playdate there are 5 kids all 3 years old taking lessons.

My son has taken the longest to put his face in the water of all the kids. Like 6 lessons before he would do it. Finally he borrowed another kids goggles and that was so much fun he was able to see under water I got him his own set and he will now do it. Some of the methods the teacher used were all games.

Little floating toys, small like 1.5 inch kind you squeeze the water out of that float when empty. She puts two in the water and she and my son have a "race" blowing above the water to see who can get their toy to the wall first. Eventually they work toward getting the mouth in the water and blowing bubbles for the race.

Once he was ready to put his face in the water they started playing games where they would both go under water and she would make a funny face or hold up some fingers and then when they come back up he tells or shows her what he saw her do.

She never, ever has dunked a kid. She works with them and encourages them to do it on their own. But never has it been forced.


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#7 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 02:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bdavis337 View Post
Let her get there on her own. As a former instructor, I can tell you they don't learn any faster by "forced" dunking, and it just makes them angry.
Agreed. One of my DDs loved swim lessons as a toddler and could swim quite well when she was 3. My other DD hated swim lessons as a toddler so we dropped them for her. They both swim on a swim team now. When a child is ready, it will come easily to them.

My younger DD, who hated swim lessons, figured out how to swim on her own when she was 8, but never put her face in the water without holding her nose. Right after she turned 9 she decided she wanted to learn to the "the right way" (her words not ours) and started trying to blow bubbles. We signed her up for a one week stroke class, and the week after that she started swimming with the swim team. She went from not being able to put her face in the water, to swimming all 4 competive strokes pretty well in less than a month. Because she wanted to.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 03:41 PM
 
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3.5 seems quite early for them to require that in order to move on in lessons.

My 6yo & 8yo are in lessons right now(both in Level 1 of Red Cross). The 6yo won't put her head under the water. They've been working with her by having her chin in the water & blowing bubbles. Most of the time her top lip isn't under the water. Then they usually move on to tipping their head & putting the ears in the water 1 at a time. From blowing bubbles they move onto blowing bubbles through their noses. 2 of the kids in their class wear goggles & my oldest wanted some but I refuse as I feel it will hinder her like wearing lifejackets did.

I took them to the pool last night & I worked with her some more. I did get her putting her eyes under the water. We started with the mouth bubbles, then moved onto the nose. I had to hold her the entire time & then I got her ears under the water. I did pull her down just a tiny bit to get her started. Then we did her eyes. She only did it 2 or 3 times but it's good enough for now. I do not see her doing it tomorrow in lessons(we skipped today & went to the parade instead)
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#9 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 04:55 PM
 
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Honestly, for swimming there is no really generally accepted age for being able to put their heads underwater without help. My oldest was floating face down, unassisted on his stomach, at age 2 1/2, and kicking and moving his arms to swim about 10 feet on his own. My current toddler loves to blow bubbles, but isn't ready to fully submerge, and some of the other kids at the pool his age are nervous just putting their toes in the wading pool. It's all about what the child is ready for.

As for lesson progression, it's not unusual at all for 3 1/2 to be the age when they're asked to be able to do that, b/c 3 is typically the first time the child would be on his/her own during lessons, and lessons progress in a particular direction, with full submersion being necesssary to move into floating, kicking, and other basic skills. Assuming a smooth transition from one "level" to the next, it's not unrealistic to see a child that age being able to submerge on their own.

But again - ALL KIDS PROGRESS DIFFERENTLY!!
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#10 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 04:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bdavis337 View Post
I encouraged their parents to forgoe wiping their faces for them, or saying "let's get a towel and wipe that off" every time they got a wet face.
Great timing on this thread. My DS became very uncomfortable in the bathtub around 3.5 yrs of age and because he is quite spirited, we had to slow way down and take more time with him at bathtime. We only go to pools and beaches in the summertime so it was no surprise that this summer he really is having a hard time keeping the water off his face. We are taking a Mommy and Me class and there is no forcing, just fun and a bit of creativity. After ONE class he is now blowing bubbles with his mouth and laughing a little when water splashes on his face. I consider this a wonderful achievement and he is looking forward to the next class tomorrow.

I have a question regarding the quote above. At bath time, we HAVE been giving him a towel to wipe off his face whenever water gets on (he pours water over his own head for shampoo-rinsing). He always insisted on wiping off the water right away. Is this not a good idea? If not, what do we do next time he asks for the towel?
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#11 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 05:04 PM
 
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I'd suggest just having it wipe the water off with his hand. If he's hesitant to open his eyes (which I found was usually the issue), have him wipe those with his fingers. Just getting out of the habit of drying your face off every.single.time. it gets wet really helps them acclimate to having their faces in the water.

Either that or only doing the toweling off right before you leave the bathtub, so he's getting out and dried off anyway (so wash his hair last then, and then just get out of the tub unless that totally disrupts your bathing routine). It's great he pours the water over his head on his own, so if this doesn't work for you then just keep doing the towel-off thing and don't worry about it. He'll get it in time.
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#12 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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These are all fantastic ideas - thank you so much! I love the water can, the blowing the toys and treasure game.

I really think the forced dunking is cruel...like water torture. I think I've only seen one child who actually *likes* it. WHY do they do that?? :

Once again thanks mamas!!
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#13 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 07:48 PM
 
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We pulled Denali out of a swim program that had the parents force-dunk. She hated getting her face in the water, and as soon as her eyes got wet in the chlorinated pool they would turn all red and puffy.

We enrolled her in a different program, and it has been fantastic! They really work with the child individually and never push them too far.
The best thing is that all the kids wear goggles. It took Denali about three weeks to realy accept wearing them, but it completely solved the eye issue. now that she knows her eyes don't get wet she is not so afraid of putting her face in the water.

The instructor has been slowly building the kids up to a full facial immersion. She started with mouth bubble blowing. Then she gently had the children immerse one ear and then the other. Next she taught them how to hum our of their noses, and then they immersed their noses and blew nose bubbles.
The she took little toys and they practiced looking at the toys under water, and also immersing their faces.
Next she had them play with a squirt hose and had them laughing with glee as she splashed them with water. She included the head and the face a bit, and the kids didn't mind becase they had goggles and no water got in their eyes. The loved it!
Finally they are now working on jumping off the side of the pool into the arms of the instructor. Some kids in the class are feeling great about dunking, but my daughter isn't quite ready for the full dunk yet. I think she will be ready in the next class or two.

All of the above has taken place at the childrens' paces over the last five weeks.
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#14 of 14 Old 07-11-2007, 08:00 PM
 
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I just have to throw in my opinion about goggles here - once your kids are really comfortable and making good progress, make sure to swim without them at times. Until my oldest son, now 6, was swimming enough to "need them" (doing laps for lessons instead of just short distance practices, etc) he only used them for playtime at the end of lessons, and free swim. I've seen children who refuse to get into the water without them, so do be sure you do *some* playtime without, so they are accustomed to haveing water in their eyes.
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