On a recent trip to Tonga, I realised how much we take for granted our ability to swim. Tonga is an independent country in the South Pacific consisting of 176 islands, and many of the locals can’t swim. Imagine living in such beauty, surrounded by warm tropical waters and pristine beaches, and never having the opportunity to learn to swim.
From as young as 4 months old, children in Australia have the opportunity to be involved in structured swimming classes. By the time they are in Primary School, children partake in lessons organised during school time. These lessons consist of beginning skills of survival and safety, right through to CPR and perfecting swimming strokes.
Early Primary School
As noted previously, ages of achievement are just a guideline. Becoming confident in water and perfecting swimming and water safety skills will vary largely due to many factors, resulting in everyone having individual goals and achievements.
Based on the age guidelines, children up to the age of approximately 8 will be learning the following skills:
- Safe entry into water
- Exhale in water
- Opening eyes in water
- Gliding forwards and backwards, progressing on to gliding and kicking
- Recovering from a glide
- Treading water/ sculling
- Forward roll
- Breaststroke legs
For those unfamiliar with the ‘slide in entry’, this is used as the safest way to enter water. It is a way of entering the water slowly with the ability to exit quickly if needed. The slide in entry is done by sitting on the edge, putting your hands on the edge to the side of you (both hands same side) and with your weight on your hands, turn your boy toward the edge and lower in slowly. Many people think this is only for swimming pools, but it should be used whenever possible, even by adults particularly into unknown waters.
To help build confidence under water, encourage children to blink their eyes to get the water out rather than rubbing them. Rubbing can cause irritation and add to their fear of having their face in the water.
For people who want to hold their nose, it can be helpful to teach them to close their mouth and blow through their nose instead. This takes away the fear of water going up their nose and leaves their hands free for swimming.
It is strange to think that we need to be taught how to stand up in water, but the ‘floating’ feeling in water is strange until we are familiar with it. To help with recovering from a glide or float, encourage your children to lift their head, lift their knees up, and use their hands to pull down to get into an upright position.
Hopefully you are able to use these tips next time you are swimming with your children and give them a gentle shove in the direction of becoming more confident and competent swimmers.
Cheers, Nic xx