It’s very important for your child to become comfortable and familiar with the water, before proceeding to toddler swimming lessons. There are many steps you can take to introduce the water as an every day, fun part of life.
For many babies and toddlers, the sensation of having their ears wet is initially uncomfortable, irritating, or possibly even scary, especially if they get water in their ears and feel as though they can’t hear anything. Remember, the perception of a toddler is quite different to an older child’s or adult’s. Everything is new and can be frightening. That’s why it’s ideal to go slowly, and work towards teaching your toddler to swim in gradual phases, without pressure.
Getting their ears wet is important because, unless they become familiar with this feeling, they won’t be happy to put their whole face or head under the water. This can be learnt and practiced in the bath, pool, or paddling pool. Try getting your toddler to tip their head on the side and just put the side of their head into the water. Then, change to the other ear, and once they are happy doing this, make it a game and start to get faster at it. This is also a helpful way to gradually introduce the chin, nose, and mouth.
Another exercise is to get your toddler to lay in the bath (or in the pool floating with your support under the back), and get them to tilt their head back. Make sure you have flu support under the back of the head. You can also tip water over their ears, or just do this when washing their hair.
Make sure to dry their ears thoroughly afterwards, and show your toddler how to tip their head on the side to allow excess water to escape. Do not get their ears wet in an overly heated swimming pool, or especially a spa (jacuzzi), as this can allow bacteria to grow, which may cause ear infections.
It’s ideal to begin letting your child become accustomed to water on their face as early as babyhood. When your baby is very young, just running a wet washcloth over their face is a good start. You can increase this to squeezing some trickles out across their face, and as they get older, pouring water over first the back of their head, and then the top.
The bath is, again, the perfect place to begin. Let your toddler or baby know exactly what you are going to do, so they learn to expect it. You can tell them you are going to pour a cup of water on the back of their head, and count it down: “Ready Jimmy, one, two, three, go!” Then you can repeat the same thing on the top of their head. Doing this at least of couple times each bath-time will allow them to become accustomed to water on their face in no time, and your toddler will instinctively learn to close their eyes and mouth.
As your toddler gets older, and you move towards teaching toddler swimming, they will be ready for new water activities. When they are confident standing, they may like to experience being under the shower. If you have a removable (flexible) shower nozzle, you may want to just put the shower over their head in small bursts to get them used to it. Encourage your older toddler to splash water on their faces in the bath, and remember this should be fun, with no pressure.
Getting your child’s face and ears wet is an important precursor to putting their whole face and then head under the water, during the process of toddler swimming lessons.