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How to use swimming to teach children life skills?

What life skills can a five-year-old child master while swimming? Believe it or not, there are many! Why should we use swimming to teach five-year olds life skills? Because through sports and through play, children overcome the most difficult things in a much easier way. If we offer them this way of behaving from an early age in swimming, we will make it easier for them to "swim" easier through the challenges in childhood and life in the future.

What skills can children master while swimming at the age of five?

Swimming, as any sport, teaches children important life skills from an early age. The only question is how and how much coaches commit themselves to such an approach in swimming and to children learning to swim. Of course, it takes a lot of time and patience for the result to become visible.

What can I do once I learn how to swim? This was a question a five-year-old boy asked me. The boy was my son. I was not at all surprised, because he has been in the water since he was four months old. Nevertheless, I thought carefully about what answer to give:

Well, to start with, you can "swim" the world. On the other hand, you can always have a good time. Once you master swimming techniques and become more self-confident, you could outmanoeuvre a friend in the 50m crawl while being watched by your crush. With swimming, you will easily achieve the desired muscle tone while still in puberty.

You will address your daily obligations with a healthier approach, and you will not lack positive energy for anything you want to do. If you decide to study, you will easily enrol in the desired faculty and swim for their team. Once your get your own children you will be able to swim with them from their birth, the same way I have done with you. And once you get your grandchildren, there will be nothing that could stop you from entering the pool at the age of 65, swimming and feeling great.

What life skills do I teach children while swimming?

Along with swimming, I teach children life skills from the earliest age. In my experience, these skills are important for children, both for swimming and growing up by the water, and on the dry. My children who have been in the water since the age of four months, who are now four and five years old respectively, are familiar with their values and the opportunities they offer.

1. To seek help, ask questions, and communicate effectively: Children who take up swimming without having their parents around in the pool at the age of three or five, need to learn to listen, ask questions, and also give feedback. Many will say, what is there to learn, even in swimming!? Not all children feel free to ask for clarifications if they do not understand something. Water is such a "playground" that knows how to confuse even the freest, most communicative kids. That is why it is important for children to learn to swim at the earliest age, but also to communicate in the water. To feel free to say what they want, to indicate when they feel insecure, to ask again when they did not understand something.

How can children ask for help when they need it while swimming? Even while they are at the edge of the swimming pool, they should be clearly and loudly explained that they should always seek and ask for help when they need it. These are just some of the situations and desirable children's reactions: Give me a hand so that I can jump in. Can I jump into the shallows first and then go into the deep? I can't, it’s too far away from me… you can, I will help you. Try swimming alone to the other side of the pool, my hand is right there. If you need to, grab it, if you don’t, just know I'm here next to you… etc. It may sound banal, but trust me, it works.

When we tell children how to ask, and show them at the beginning that they can count on our help in and near the water, they will know that they can ask for it and thus communicate with ease. They will also swim safely. In this way, they gain self-confidence not only in the water, but also by the pool. In this way, children will not be unfamiliar with constructive criticism, on the contrary, they will know how to accept it.

2. To solve "puzzles", to adapt to situations: It is clear that children find it easier to think, consider, and solve tasks while playing, and in that way easily cope with various situations. Especially when they are in or under water.

How can a five-year-old solve a "puzzle" in water? Easily. Here is an example of solving a puzzle while playing. I often scatter toys at the bottom of the pool for children to reach them. The first time I throw the toys on one pile, and the next time I just scatter them around. Their task is to reach all the toys in the shortest possible time, with one dive, that is, in one breath. You think they didn't realise it quickly… that they should go in a circle from one toy to the other and collect them all. Of course, there are children who take the wrong path, going left, then right, then left again, which takes away their time and breath. But next time, they look at a similar situation in a different way. They come up with a solution much easier because they become aware of their mistakes. In this way, we encourage children to think creatively about each new "puzzle", not only in water. But also, we encourage them to have an analytical approach in recognising their own mistakes.

Children are often not that flexible to changes in water. For some kids, even the first jump without the help of a hand in the water might be an awkward situation to be addressed and solved. When a child gets a board to hold on while swimming, he or she might get into a situation that seems "impossible to handle" at that moment. Because replacing a swimming instructor for some children is a "puzzle" they can’t solve right away, so this is why we then try to use an adequate play to make the situation more tolerable for them.

Children’s way of behaving and adapting from the earliest age to the daily challenges of the environment, in and around the water, is not a gift, but a skill that is learnt every day.

3. To learn to take care of themselves and others: When children learn to respect themselves from the very beginning in the water, to feel safe in the water, but also to be supportive of friends, it will be much easier for them to swim and enjoy it. What does it mean? From the very start, children accept that there are some rules of conduct in the water, that there is some order while swimming, that they should also wait, that there is no pushing each other in the water or on the edge of the swimming pool, that every child has the right to the same amount of time and attention while swimming… because swimming is not just an individual thing, but a team activity too. In this way they will build a healthy relationship with other swimmers, their coach, but also with their math teacher or a granny on a bus in the future.

Children from an early age know how to be compassionate with others. Sometimes we don't need to remind them of that, it is enough to be their role models. Here is an example: We are about to start with our swim lesson but a five-year-old boy forgot his goggles. I didn't have any spare ones to offer him that day. You know what happened? A girl one year his junior next to him said: "What about me swimming for half a lesson with my goggles on, and then I you can have them for the other half of the class." I felt so proud of those little swimmers but great people.

I believe that swimming should be and that one day it will become a part of the essential competences, accessible to all children.

Because, life is more beautiful while you’re swimming!


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