When it comes to learning to swim, consistency is key. While swim lessons are really beneficial (I'll talk about this more next time), it's important that children just go to the pool and practice. I prefer a public pool for many reasons: it's safer and cheaper than having your own, and a great way to encourage your children to try more in the water. Some call it a "positive peer pressure" and no matter how you feel about that, it really does work. If they see other children swim away from their parents or jump off the diving board, they will be more encouraged to try it themselves.
The other really important thing is to start as early as possible. Children can start learning at 6 months of age and most Infant/Parent Classes begin at the same time. This is a great age to start and is perfectly safe. They can even safely go under water, but there have to be limits, and you can check with your actual instructor if you take a class.
The last thing to remember is to stay relaxed. If you are afraid of the water and you let your child feel it, it will certainly increase their fear. Just as in other situations, children take cues from you, so it's important not to let negative feelings show. This means acting excited and smiling when you discuss going to the pool. Get in the water up to your chest (and the babies chest) relatively quickly and don't act like it's too cold. As you move around and try different skills, stay positive and have fun. If your baby/child goes under the water, even by accident, clap for them. You may be patting their back while they're coughing, but keep smiling and cheering. Don't let an accidental slip under become a negative- turn it into a positive with lots of praise and cheering.
I'll talk about Swim Lessons tomorrow in Part 2 and more about Practicing Skills in Part 3 on Wednesday.