Three year olds are ready to learn how to enjoy the water. Your job as a parent is remarkably simple. Just play with them. Yep, that is all you need to do. Children need to know at an early age that water is fun. That it is ok to go under the water. That it is ok to jump and splash. That it is ok to lose their balance and go under the water. Your job as parents is to make you child giggle and have fun.
This is even possible if you, as a parent do not know how to swim.
When at a pool let you child stand on the steps to get the feel of the moving water. They will topple. Just pick them back up. Put them on their feet. They will topple over again. Pick them back up. They will walk off the edge of the step and go under. Slowly and gently pick them up, smile, and place them on the steps again. Sit them on the top step to get the feel of
the moving water around them. This is a big part of swimming. The water jostles you. It is hard to stand and walk or even sit. This is an important learning experience.
Place your child on the edge of the pool. Hold their hands. Say to them, “Ready, one, two, three, jump” and have them jump off the edge to you. LET THEM GO UNDER WATER! They will come up coughing and spitting out water. This is how they learn. You cannot teach them to hold their breath. They will learn it naturally!!! Just make sure they are prepared before they jump by saying, “Ready, one, two, three, jump.” They will learn that after three they will be going under. You will get some resistance. If they want to jump fine, if not, just play on the steps. But here they too will fall off the steps and go under. Really, this is how they get use to the water, by accidentally going under.
Feel free to bring toys to the pool, things that float and sink. Just make it fun. I love pool rings that sink. The kids just love picking things up off the bottom or steps of the pool. If the item is on the lower steps, they have to put their face in to retrieve the item. I put pennies in the pool. They love to pick these up.
Hold them in your arms. Say, “We are going under water. Ready, one, two, three. “On three raise your body up about a foot and then slowing go under water with your child. Slowly down, and slowly up. This procedure should take about 10 seconds. Don’t rush it. Smile when you come up. This is the most important part. Smiling. They need to see and know that it is ok. That this is not a bad thing. That this is safe.
Your job is simple. Just play. Show them that water is ok. Do not instill fear. Teach the difference that the pool is fun, but can only be enjoyed when you are with them.
This technique can be used with all age children. 6 month olds can sit on the steps and splash. You can hold them in your arms and go under water and have them jump in as well if you feel comfortable with this. This technique works with older children who have not had any water experience. Just let them walk and play.