Swimming helps build a child's confidence

It's said that humans are born with only two fears: sudden, loud noises and the fear of falling. Every other aversion and phobia we develop normally in our childhood years is learned from the people around us.

Some anxieties are complex but others can be defeated quite simply and one of the most important to combat is the fear of water. How? By making sure that children learn to swim at an early age.

The benefits are many, says playworker and childcare professional Chrys Jaimes, and they start with simple safety. A child who can swim and who is confident in the water is far less likely to get into trouble when the family is on the beach or by a lake. It also makes angling, watersports and any form of boating much safer.

Chrys added: "Swimming is a wonderful way for children to get the exercise they need, too, because it builds muscles, burns fat and teaches co-ordination. In an age when child obesity is a real problem, swimming is also a brilliant way to make exercise fun.

"And for those kids who already enjoy exercise, it's another way to help them burn off some of that seemingly inexhaustible energy!"

There are added bonuses, too. Children love mastering a new skill and take great pride in their achievements. Success always boosts a child's self-confidence and makes them eager to take on further challenges all good preparation for the rigours of adult life.

"Swimming is a fantastic family activity, too," said Chrys.

Although experts suggest that children should learn to swim at an early age, if possible, it will be up to individual parents to decide whether their child is best served by being parent-taught or learning through formal lessons. Whichever way is chosen, said Chrys, there are some important points to remember:

  • Don't rush things. Children range from extremely nervous through fearless to downright reckless when confronted by water so go at the right pace for your child.

  • Even the best swimmers can get into trouble so make sure children are taught to have a proper respect for water - whether it's the shallow-end of your local pool or the ocean.

  • Do as you would be done by. You can't censure youngsters for irresponsible behaviour on the edge of a pool if they see you doing the same thing five minutes later.

  • Make sure swimming lessons happen in a heated pool. It may sound obvious but an aversion to cold water could decide whether or not your child wants to embrace the whole idea of swimming.

  • If you have any doubt about yourself as a teacher, invest in professional swimming lessons and be prepared to stay nearby for as long as your child draws confidence from your presence
And above all, said Chrys, make sure swimming is a 'fun' activity. If you make it a chore or a trial your child will shrink from it; if you make it enjoyable they'll love every minute of it - and you will have a lifetime's peace-of-mind.
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