Some children love the water from as early as their first bath and learn to swim almost effortlessly. For others, taking the plunge into open water or learning to swim is terrifying. However, learning to swim from a young age can keep children safer around lakes and pools. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and the third leading cause of death in children. It's critical that parents help their kids get over their fear of the water at a young age.
Recognize the fear. Talk to your child using age-appropriate language about why he is afraid of the water. Do not minimize his fear, or tell him he has nothing to be afraid of. However, while it is important to acknowledge his feelings, don't let him manipulate you or others with his fear.
Take it slow. Do not force your child into the pool if he is truly terrified. While watching him closely, let him play alongside the pool and let him watch you and other children have fun in the water. Provide him with pool toys and flotation devices, and let him gradually ease into the water as you support him.
Make it fun. Get your child used to putting his face in the water by blowing bubbles and pretending to be a fish. Use a toy watering can to pour water over your child's head to simulate taking a shower. Once your child is comfortable getting into the pool, pretend to be animals in the pool such as a bunny hopping up and down, or a crocodile snapping his arms or legs.
Enroll in an age-appropriate swimming program. Swim lessons will help a child learn to be safe and confident in water. Know the environment that will be most comforting for your child. Many swim clubs offer a mommy-and-me class that allow the parent into the water with their child. Others require the parents to stay on the sidelines. Other factors to consider include the temperature of the pool, the class size and teacher personality.
Give a lot of positive reinforcement. This will boost a child's confidence and self-esteem without inflicting pain or punishment. Give plenty of specific praise, such as "you are so brave to put your head in the water" or "you are the best bubble blower!"
Never leave a child unattended near the water, even for a short time.