Parents who are heading to the pool with their kids are often faced with a tough question. Should they be using the time to teach the kids how to swim (with drills and strokes) or just let them have fun splashing around?
According to Jennifer Telfer, physical literacy coordinator for the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre, parents who want to teach physical literacy in the pool with their children can engage in fun activities while still working on beneficial movement skills.
“Children should have fun and enjoy the process of skill-building with parents. This helps create a positive environment to learn, where it’s OK to make mistakes,” she says.
For example, swim time is included as part of preschool, home school physical education and summer day camps at the facility. These scheduled swim times offer a combination of games that focus on skill-building and teamwork, but also include free time to swim and try the waterslide.
“We encourage a balance of free play for exploration/imagination with structured games to intentionally build skills and confidence.”
The key is make teaching feel like play. While there is certainly a time and place for structured swimming lessons that focus is on laps and proper form, physical literacy is about more than mastering the front stroke. It’s about children becoming comfortable with a wide range of movements in different environments, including water.
“The more active children are in a variety of different environments, including water, the more confident they will be to pursue other activities as they get older,” says Jennifer.
“For example, kids who are more comfortable in the water may go onto to play water polo, scuba dive, or do paddling sports.”
It’s also important to treat each child as an individual who will progress at his or her own level. If water is a new environment for children, they may go slowly as they gain a new comfort and confidence level. If they’re “water babies”, and feel at home in the pool, these skills might come faster.
Another great tip is for parents to act as a role model. Showing your child how you perform a skill is a great way to encourage them to try it too, Jennifer says.
Overall, whichever activities or games you choose, the benefits of being active in the pool with your kids are numerous. It helps give your children the confidence and competence to explore new activities throughout their life and not shy away from new challenges.
Pool Games/Activities for Different Age Groups
- In the shallow end, hold your baby while you gently bob in the water, slowly getting your child’s legs wet
- Hold your baby while you twirl slowly and sing
- Encourage your toddler to move his arms and kick his legs while you hold them securely
- Show them how to blow bubbles in the water
- Sit on shallow steps of the pool and show them how to kick their legs and imitate front stroke with their arms
School Age and Older
- Work with your child to move from standing to floating on their front or back
- Teach them to hold their breath underwater for a few seconds at a time
- Use a pool toy or ball to play catch
- Play water volleyball
- Practice movement skills by having water running races
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