How to Train your Water Baby

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Swimming is one of my favorite things in the entire world. Swimming lessons, on the other hand, not so much. I was so traumatized by swimming lessons as a six-year-old that I would hide under my bed and get panic attacks in the hour before it was time to leave. I only got over my fear of the water once my dad decided to teach me himself. To accomplish this, my entire family had to drive to the pool at 6 in the morning so everyone could finish in time for my dad to leave for work. The greatest advantage of going early was how empty and peaceful the pool was. It helped calm my anxiety to know that I wasn’t in the hands of a stranger and that there weren’t any other kids to distract my dad or me from our mission of keeping me alive. But I also started enjoying going to the pool because of the time after our lessons when my dad and my siblings would play water games and just have fun.

Recently I took my nephews, ages six and four, to the pool. I hadn’t seen them in a long time and I’d never been swimming with them before, so I had no idea what to expect. It surprised me how much they were drawn to the water and yet how much they were afraid of it at the same time. I tried to remember how I learned the most basic of things, like blowing bubbles, kicking my legs, and holding my breath, but it felt so long ago. We made an attempt to play a few games, but my game repertoire was a little sparse and overly ambitious (let’s just say it’s a challenge to play Marco Polo or Sharks vs. Jets while staying on the stairs that lead into the water). My bafflement over how to get them to have more fun in the water and to learn some swimming basics led me to seek out a few books at the library, and then I found a lovely if somewhat ancient (okay, 1980)-appearing book called Water Fun: Swimming Instruction & Water Games for the Whole Family.

Water Fun is a great combination of tips and guidelines for teaching your children how to swim and having fun while doing so. There are suggestions for everything from preparing your children to put their faces in the water to floating, treading water, and going off the diving board for the first time. And while the black and white pictures of people in large sunglasses and one-piece flowery swimsuits may be a little out of fashion, the games, exercises, and basic instructions are still great. The book touches on a lot of subjects—including water safety, exercise routines, different strokes, dives, water toys, and boating guidelines—but doesn’t go in-depth with each subject, so you’ll probably want to look for a different book if you want more advanced, detailed, up-to-date information. But if you’re like me and you’re looking for a few new games and activities to help your nieces/nephews/kids become fully fledged “water babies,” give it a browse.

Picture taken at Orem Rec Center.

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