Thursday, June 25, 2009

Look ma, no wings

On our summer vacation, which oddly enough ended the day before the first actual day of summer, our 2-year-old son learned how to swim. This was a very important skill for him to learn. Jim and I both love being in any body of water - ocean, lake, pool, mountain stream, bathtub, jacuzzi, whatever - and we want him to be comfortable, competent and safe in the water.

We had been using a bathing suit with floats inside to help buoy him in the water. This year, we ditched the suit. He blows bubbles in the water and even learned to hold his breath under water sometime last year. We decided, too, that there would be no water wings. It was literally going to be sink or swim for him, which brings me to this: We're finding more and more with Danny that the sink or swim style of learning is best for him.

Whenever I try to teach him something that he wasn't interested in to begin with, he shoots a look of bemused indifference before walking away. (at least he's polite about it!) Exposure to a lot of different activities and sincere interest in them by his parents seem to be all he really needs to grasp a concept. I've never been a big fan of products that claim to assist the learning process, like water wings. More often, these swimming aids seem to keep the child from feeling what his body really does in the water without flotation devices. Chances are he'll learn to swim quicker without these so-called aides.

Luckily, Danny has been exposed to water play from a very early age. (Fiona was exposed even earlier - she was born in the water! She actually did kick her feet in the water last week.) He'd had lessons when he was six months old and 18 months old. I really had no illusions about whether he'd learn to swim from these goofy, non-swim lessons offered at the local rec center. It was just a fun activity for Danny and I to do together. Looking back, he didn't enjoy following along with the class. He would scoot off the side before the rest of the class capped off "I'm a little teapot" by jumping into the pool (Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds). We go to the lake once a week as soon as it's warm enough (even if it's in March). Late last year, Danny and I went to the rec center during free swim time (until I could no longer get my very pregnant self out of the water unassisted). Until last week, he wouldn't try to move his arms and legs in the water mostly because he'd never been in water over his head.

Last week, he was in the pool (and ocean) each of the six days we were in Daytona. I had a feeling that daily exposure would improve his swimming skills. On the first day, I let him jump in the pool in water over his head only after I had counted to three. For the rest of the week, he knew that was the routine and happily jumped off into our arms. By the second or third day, he was jumping off, going under and swimming his way back up. By week's end, he would swim to the side of the pool on his own. He does have trouble keeping his head above water and sometimes chokes on the water, but he'll get over that in time. Meanwhile, enjoy this video of Danny jumping into the pool and swimming. Also in this video is a very annoying little girl who kept getting in his way ... really, I wanted to yell at her!

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