For many of us water is such a big part of our lives, so it's important that we safely expose our little ones to water from an early age. We want our kids to be careful around water, but ideally, not afraid of water! Luckily, there are so many different ways we can expose our kids to the joys of water both at home and in the community. It goes without saying of course to make sure that your little one is always safe and appropriately supervised around water.
Ideas for home:
* Bath: bath time generally becomes part of the routine pretty early on. Use this time to slowly increase types of water exposure. Try gently tipping water over your little one's head so they get used to the feeling of the water over their face and the idea of holding their breath. When you do this, make sure that you consistently use words that your child begins to associate with what is going to happen (e.g., Name, ready, set, go). These days our kids often take their goggles in the bath to practice being mermaids under the water!
* Shower: showers are great for teaching children about holding their breath when under water. If your child is still quite young, hop in the shower with them. There's something about standing under a hot shower, feeling the water fall over you, that is like a reset for the body and mind so it’s great for you both! If your child is a bit older, try sitting them on the floor of the shower with some toys and let them explore.
* Water activities: most children seem to naturally love water, so adding water to an activity can generally guarantee longer play time! Put water in a shallow bucket or oven roasting tray and simply let them splash with their hands. Or try adding toys like measuring cups and watering cans. There are some great squishy toys you can buy that swell up when wet for lots of imaginative play. As kids get older, grab a sprinkler, a kiddie pool, or a mud kitchen for the backyard. Our kids love using their mud kitchen to wash up their toys. Just add water and some bubbles and you're good to go.
Ideas for community:
* Splash areas: check out your local community swim centre. Many of the community swimming pools have an outdoor splash area for the little ones that may include small fountains, slides, and tipping buckets. For a small entry fee your child can have a play in the splash area or take a dip in the pool with you. Some of the local parks now have splash areas too that are great for babies, toddlers, and bigger kids. Gold Coasters – check out the Broadwater Parklands at Southport.
* Infant swim lessons: check out your local swim school. If you're not feeling that confident in the water, or you want to add some more ideas to your toolkit, have a look at whether a swim school near you offers free or low cost baby swim classes. Many swim schools offer these classes to help parents expose their little ones to water in a safe and supervised environment. You'll often pick up ideas that you can use at home. Generally, these free or low cost classes are for babies under 6 months, but you'll need to contact your local swim school to find out more.
Most importantly, start small so your child doesn't feel overwhelmed. Also, don't get disheartened if your child doesn't seem to like water. Keep trying with different activities – use songs and make it fun! Our first child was a water baby from day dot, but our second child refused to put his head under water until he was over 4 years old (despite loving water play since birth). Hopefully some of these ideas are useful in helping you to support your child to develop a safe and positive relationship with water!