I wanted to teach my children to swim as early as possible. Parents are always hugely relieved when their children can at least get themselves to the side of a pool. Children’s swimming instructor Tom Puntis came to us with a great idea for ‘safety exercises to teach your kids while on holiday’.

For your little budding swimmer, there’s nothing more fun that splashing around in the pool on holiday! It’s a great opportunity to bond with your child whilst having a lot of fun too! But as much as pool time can be enjoyable, we mustn’t forget the dangers that come along with it. Throughout my swimming teaching career, I have worked with many children of all different standards and my first port of call, without fail, is to teach my students how to be safe in and around the pool.

Here are the surprising facts from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) – More than 1.1 million primary school children in England – 51 per cent of children aged seven to eleven – cannot swim the 25 metre length of a typical swimming pool unaided. One more worrying statistic for you – The World Health Organisation (WHO) report that children under the age of 5 have the highest global drowning mortality rates.

Although these facts might be worrying and scary, there are many things you can do, as a parent or guardian, to help your child be safe around water. Below you will find 3 simple exercises that I have created to help them be happy, confident and most importantly, safe around the water.

Exercise 1

Let’s imagine that a pool doesn’t have a safety fence and your child falls into the water. Apart from knowing how to stay a float, an incredibly useful skill for your child to know in this scenario (especially if you aren’t there to help) would be learning how to turn around and find the wall to grab on to. A fun way to teach this skill is a simple game called ‘Find me’!

Aim – To teach your child to turn around confidently in the water

Challenge level: Medium – Assuming they can confidently go underwater.

How to teach it: Start in a shallow area your child can stand in. Face them away from you while you stand behind them. Say the words ‘find me’ and they should turn around to see you. Extra high fives rewarded for speed! Once mastered, move into a deeper area of the pool and hold them underneath their armpits while they face away. Say the key words ‘Find me’, keep hold of them and guide them under the water and around to find you! If all goes well next time explain that you will let go of them and they will have to try it themselves. They will submerge under water and spin around to find you. A big hug and some bouncy bunny jumps for being so brave will go down a treat!

Exercise 2

Next up is a game of monkey safari!

Aim – To teach your child how to move along the pool edge: Learning to support their own weight on the edge gives a child a sense of confidence and it will reassure them that they are capable in the water. If they can confidently travel along the pool edge using their hands, they will be able to find pool steps/the shallow end and reach safety if they come into trouble.

How to teach it: Hold onto your little monkey underneath their armpits with them facing away from you. Pretend you are on a safari ride and glide them around the water. Ask what animals they can see? (It’s time to test your wild animal impressions!) After you’ve gone through a few different safari animals… you should reach the all-important monkey! Explain that monkeys use their arms to travel from tree to tree and that you are going to pretend the pool ledge is a tree branch. Real monkeys hold on all by themselves and make lots of monkey noises so that’s what you’re going to do! As they climb the edges count how many steps your monkey can take! Best monkey impression wins!

Exercise 3

Finally, once your little swimmer is confident enough, add these 3 movements all together: First – Jumping in from the edge of the pool… Second – Turning around when in the pool (Find Me – Usually I stand with my hand a couple of meters away from the wall and ask them to aim there)… Third – Kicking back to the edge for monkey climbing!

If your child can’t jump from the side by themselves you can help with one hand only. Make sure their toes are always over the edge before they jump so they don’t slip. Also make sure the jump is big enough so they land away from the wall before trying to turn back around (A little helping hand might be necessary)

Combining these 3 movements will give you a huge sense of relief knowing that your child has learnt some important safety skills, all without the use of armbands or floats. I personally try and teach as much as I can without the aid of floats to help children learn at a faster rate and also to create a close bond with parent or teacher. Happy swimming!

For more tips, tricks and all things swimming head to my new website for more information.

By Tom Puntis
Swimming Specialist

Tom is also in the process of creating his own swimming stories which will be ready to buy soon to help exactly with these types of skills. For more information, tips and products head to swimcomplete.co.uk (coming soon).

Tom Puntis