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How to make your kid comfortable while swimming

Who can resist the sight of a beautiful, blue pool when you're looking for respite from the blazing sun and relentless heat? Get organised and enjoy a great swimming season with your children.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2012 19:44 IST
Ht Next,Hindustan Times,Kids

Who can resist the sight of a beautiful, blue pool when you're looking for respite from the blazing sun and relentless heat? Get organised and enjoy a great swimming season with your children.

Swimwear shopping - Do's and don'ts
Pull out last year's swimming gear and check what needs replacement. A whole season has passed and the kids would most likely have outgrown last year's swimwear, so that would probably be your first point of action. With so much variety in the market - whether you're looking for your kids' favourite cartoon characters or something sporty with racing stripes, you'll be able to find exactly what you're looking for. In fact, if your budget allows it, buying two sets isn't a bad idea. If your child spends just about every day in the neighborhood pool, multiple swimsuits will save you the hassle of instant washing and hanging out the same swimsuit time and again.

The Size: When buying swimwear, you cannot take a chance with the size. If your daughter's one piece is too big, she will spend more time trying to keep the straps up and less time having fun. The same goes for your son's swim trunks. If the child is worried about them sliding down to his ankles, he will be too self-conscious to focus on his swimming stokes. Buying too small brings out comfort issues - if it is too tight, your child could tear it, have trouble breathing or suffer from chafing due to tight elastic. Buy the right size - don't let them "Grow Into It"

Style: V cuts, shorts, briefs, bikini, tankini, one piece, skirts style ….whatever the style, let comfort and confidence take precedence. You cannot overlook the safety issues either. The longer or more flowing a skirt or shorts, the more likely they are to get stuck on a railing, ladder, corner etc. When the child is swimming, she shouldn't have anything flowing after her, causing distraction. As for the fabric, a combination of lycra and spandex is ideal - dries out quickly and feels very light and comfortable.

Try it out: Take your child with you when shopping for his or her swimsuit. This is not a standard collar T-shirt that you can pick up on their behalf. For younger children, maybe Dora was last week's favourite and this week's is Strawberry Shortcake. Or, maybe they like something a little more grown up, without a cartoon character at all. V-cuts, shorts, one piece, tankini - there are too many choices and your child must try them on to choose one that's most comfortable in not just the size but the style as well. Trying them on in a store before buying is the best assurance you will get the right size. When your child tries on a swimsuit in the store, remember to have them keep their underwear on and follow the same dressing room rules that are applicable for adults. Once he or she has the suit on, look for style and fit...and also look for signs of confidence. If your child acts embarrassed, uncomfortable or unusually shy, don't push to buy that particular suit.

Ordering online: If ordering online, be sure to check their exchange or return policy.

Sun Protection
Sun protection, though previously unheard, is a concept that is gaining importance now in India. Experts tell us to never neglect the benefits of sun protection at an early age. A kid's swimsuit should adequately protect your child's developing skin, and should be teamed up with a strong water proof sunscreen. These days you can find suits that are made with UV shielding material. This fabric is designed to keep the rays out, while other standard fabrics do not offer this level of protection.

Making swimming less intimidating
If your child knows how to swim, she'll need no invitation to get into the water. But for a non-swimmer, especially a very young child, a swimming pool can certainly seem very intimidating.

There's no recommended minimum age for swimming, many young children can swim before they even walk. Children ages six months to three years have the ability to develop their swim skills-with the proper teaching. But whatever the age of the child, the first time in a swimming pool can be as terrifying as it is exciting. Here are some easy steps to make the pool seem a friendly place and optimize your child's time in it.

Make them feel comfortable: While older children don't mind cold water so much, temperature is the first point of comfort for younger kids. The smaller a child, the less he will be able to tolerate cold temperatures. Warmer water relaxes the child, increasing his enjoyment level and his learning speed. Shivering swimmers have a more difficult time focusing on the task at hand.

Also check the atmosphere around you. Are older children jumping in and out, splashing water? If your child is a bit scared at first, find a quiet, peaceful place to start with. Gently ease yourselves in to the water and slowly move around the pool, getting familiar with all nooks and corners, steps, ladders, etc.

Make them trust you: Your child is more trusting of you than a stranger and may be willing to try new techniques along with you. Increase this trust in the water by following what you say. If you've promised not to let go, then hold on firmly. Another way to improve trust is to sit the child on the deck, his feet dangling in the water, and then to have him fall into your arms. With each catch, try to get him more and more involved with the water. Use your facial expressions and cheering words to really pump up his enthusiasm. You may soon find that he will excitedly jump rather than fall towards you.

Keeping the face under water: A significant milestone for children learning to swim is putting their face in the water. Be as creative as possible in how you encourage your child to dip his face. Simple bobbing up and down is a great motivator. Another technique is to use imitation to inspire one to dip the face. Your animated smile will convey the fun of the task. After the child is used to dipping his face under water, try then to gently guide the sides of his head into the water, almost as if he was side-breathing. This will enable him to experience different sensations in the water and be more apt to completing submerging his head.

Bubbling or Breathing under water: By instinct, most children will naturally begin to hold their breath the more they stay under the water. Especially at the beginning, expect your child to at least once gulp in a lot of water only to sputter (and protest) seconds later. One helpful technique is to position your child so that he is facing you, with your head at surface level. As you open your mouth in an exaggerated way, inhale loudly and then close your mouth right before submerging your head under water. Perform this a few times in front of your child so that he is better able to imitate it. Then, the next time you inhale and begin to submerge your head, bring the child's face briefly under the water. The more you practice this technique, the more he will get the point and learn to hold his breath underwater.

To teach the child to exhale underwater, try getting him to blow bubbles. This can be an exciting discovery for your little one. You can have the child practice with a straw in a cup of milk or by blowing out a candle: Use the analogy to encourage him to blow water in the pool. This technique also helps with getting the child used to submerging parts of his face.

Moving along: One of your main goals is to help your child continually build a sense of independence in the water. Get him to become more active by kicking his legs, showing him how the faster he kicks the more bubbles he'll make.

Have fun but be patient: Don't expect immediate results. Your objective is not competitive swimming (at least right now)!Instead it is making your child feel safe and confident in the water. Most importantly, you want your child to have fun. Once your child has settled in, you can proceed to proper swimming lessons. Gradually you'll find the frantic and strenuous movements becoming smoother and more confident.

Swimming safeguards

*Trained and adequate lifeguards must always be present at your swimming pool. Coaches should not be expected to double up as lifeguards as they are preoccupied with lessons and cannot respond instantly to a cry of help.
*It is a good idea for everyone to become familiar with the basics of First Aid and CPR. Ask if the swimming coaches and lifeguards have been trained in these techniques and have proper emergency procedures in place.
*Swim lessons do not 'drown-proof' younger kids. Children should always be supervised in the water, whether or not they know how to swim.
*Even with floaties or a life vest, - a supervisor should be 'within an arm's reach or able to touch the swimmer at all times.'
*Pool parties have become very popular with children these days, but call for greater supervision. Appoint other parents to take turns to be "designated watchers" to protect young children from pool accidents. When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk

Essential Swimming Accessories
Swimming Caps:
Mandatory for anyone with long hair at most swimming establishments and are a good idea for all as they protect your hair from the chlorine in the water. Caps usually come in Latex, Silicone and Lycra. Silicone caps are currently the most popular as they slip on and off more easily than latex and are more durable. Lycra caps are comfortable but are not waterproof.

Swimming Goggles: Protect your eyes from chlorinated water and waterborne bacteria as well as provide clear underwater vision. Ensure lenses are padded with gaskets made of foam, rubber or silicone and that the nose bridge doesn't hurt. Head straps in silicone will provide ease of adjustment and good quality lenses are a must for clear vision and anti-fogging.

Floaters: From the humble swimming tube back in our days, the sheer number of floatables available today is just mind boggling. Inflatable armbands, life vests, swim fins, swimming noodles, kickboards, paddles -the list goes on. Choose according to the age of the child and her level of swimming skills. But whatever floatation gear you use, remember it does not guarantee safety and cannot be used as a substitute for adult supervision.

Swimming diapers: Babies and infants must use swimming diapers when in the pool. These differ from regular diapers as they are made of a different absorption material and do not swell up when soaked. The typical swim diaper is a fitted diaper with elastic protection around the legs and waist to prevent leaking. They also have a stronger outer covering, so they will not tear as easily as regular diapers. Swimming diapers are now easily available at most baby products stores and large pharmacies.

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First Published: Jun 23, 2012 16:57 IST