Learning to Swim

how to swim Swimming is a skill that requires real effort to learn. But it opens the door to many pleasures, including water-skiing, surfing and diving. It also provides the best of exercise. And it frees one from helplessness in the water, which may even save one’s life.

Do you know how to swim? Do your children know how to swim? The value of knowing how to swim is illustrated by a boat trip that a close friend took when he travelling. A storm drove the boat aground an island, where it began to break apart. Those who knew how to swim jumped into the water and swam to land safely. Could you have done that? If you know how to swim, you will be able to meet similar emergencies today.

Methods et Mental Attitudes

Some think that the best way to teach persons how to swim is to toss them into deep water, forcing them to swim if they do not want to sink. But this can be a terrifying experience, and persons who have been introduced to swimming by this method rarely enjoy the water. They may even come to dread it. In learning how to swim, it is much better to adhere to a step-by-step program that avoids such experiences.

Actually fear of the water, and not the mastering of the skill itself, is the main obstacle to learning how to swim. Swimming is really quite easy, for the human body has natural buoyancy and will stay afloat. So swimming is merely a matter of using the arms and legs as paddles to move the body along.

But what if one is afraid of the water? Such a person should not be ridiculed or treated impatiently. Plutôt, efforts should be made to build in him confidence that he can easily learn how to swim. He should be helped to appreciate the simplicity of the movements used in swimming, and that his body will not sink if he relaxes. Aussi, try to introduce each successive step of the swimming program in such a way as to avoid putting him in a situation in which he is likely to fail.

Preliminary Steps

Even before beginning instruction at a pool or other body of water, certain preparations can be made. A child can practice holding his breath, and then exhaling. This may sound very elementary, but if he has not tried it before, it may take practice.

A child can also practice splashing himself, especially getting his face wet. It is important that he get used to this. Another important accomplishment is being able to hold his breath under water. He might practice doing this in the bathtub, or even in a pan of water. Do not take even these small accomplishments for granted. Let the child know when he is doing well.

Next, he can practice exhaling under water. Tell him to breathe out through his mouth and that you should see bubbles as evidence that he is doing it. He may get to enjoy this, making a game of it by pretending that he is a motorboat. Then have him blow through his nose, with his mouth closed. But before he tries this, you might have him practice blowing air through his nose above water. Otherwise, he might instinctively sniff in, rather than blow out, while his face is underneath. This could painfully draw water up his nostrils.

But whatever happens, be careful never to raise unreasonable fears in a child. Such remarks as, “I almost drowned once,” or, “I was scared to death of the water,” can do just that. Make a conscious effort to represent swimming as something very pleasurable.

At la Pool

Although getting into a tub, and even putting his head under water, may not be so difficult, a larger body of water may frighten him. So take the child by the hand and lead him in, reassuring him that it feels good. If the water is warm, 80° to 85° F., he is more likely to enjoy it.

By your showing patience and offering encouragement, even a timid child can, in time, be helped to enjoy wading and splashing around in the water. Have him practice putting his face under water and exhaling, just as he did in the bathtub. Do not minimize this step in learning to swim. It is very important that a person get used to the water, and not be afraid to get wet all over.

Another important step in learning to swim is mastering the skill of rhythmic breathing. Bobbing is one of the best methods of learning this. Tell the person to hold your hand, or the edge of the pool. Then have him take a deep breath, dip straight down below the water, blow out through his nose, and come up. Have him do it slowly as you give the directions: “Breathe deeply, dip down, blow out, come up for air.”

Or you can do it together, making a game of it. Stand facing each other in water up to the chest, holding hands at arm’s length. Now take turns in rhythmically dipping below the surface in a seesaw motion. Remind the person to take a deep breath when he comes up, and to exhale below.

When a person first puts his head under water, he is almost certain to have his eyes closed. But it is important that he get used to opening them. For one thing, this will eliminate or relieve some fear of the water. And later when he learns to swim, it will be for his safety as well as the safety of others that he sees where he is going.

You might also make a game out of learning this skill. You can both submerge, and shake hands under water. Or you can hold up a certain number of fingers. Let the person count your fingers, and when you both come up, have him tell you how many fingers you were showing. Or another game that can be a lot of fun is this: In about waist-deep water go down to the bottom and pick up colored rocks, shells or coins.

When a person is able to do these things, let him know that he is making good progress. He is now ready for the vital step just preliminary to swimming.

Learning à Float

This step is floating. Try first the so-called “cork float.” While he is standing in about chest-deep water, tell the learner to bend at the knees until his chin is at the water’s surface. Next, have him take a deep breath, bend forward, and bring his knees up to the chest, wrapping his arms around them. He should float with his back at the surface, resembling a bobbing cork. This float is good to learn first because it teaches a person how to get back on his feet again from the prone float.

The prone or face-down float, is simply a matter of lying face down in the water with arms and legs extended. To achieve this position, have the learner stand in water a little more than waist high. Then tell him to take a deep breath, bend forward with his arms straight out, and to lie face down in the water. His legs should rise to the surface behind. After a few seconds, have him bring his knees to the chest, and resume a standing position.

It is important to learn this float, for it shows the learner that he will not sink when he is in the face-down swimming position. It also makes clear that swimming is achieved simply by propelling the buoyant body by arm and leg movements. But before trying these movements, teach the learner the prone glide.

Have him stand in about waist-deep water, with his back to the wall of the pool. He should extend his arms forward across the water, bend one leg back and place the foot against the wall. Now tell him to take a deep breath, put his face in the water and, using his foot against the wall, to push off gently. He should glide across the water in a position of straight extension from fingertips to toes. When momentum is lost, he should stand up again.

If a person has followed such a step-by-step program to this point, mastering each procedure, then he is ready to work on the swimming strokes themselves.

Attaining la Goal

First, practice the leg movements. Have the learner lie in the prone float position. He can hold onto the wall of the pool, or you might support him by holding your hand under his stomach. Now tell him to move his legs up and down from the hips in a flutter kick. This may begin to propel him along in the water, if you are holding him. Really commend him for this achievement. He is almost a swimmer!

Next arm movements are needed. A child may want to raise his arms out of the water as he has seen most swimmers do. But tell him that, to begin with, you want him to pull them under the water.

Have him assume the same prone float position, again placing your hand under his stomach for support. Tell him to reach out first with one arm and then the other. The arms should be moved in much the same way as a dog moves his legs in swimming. As one arm is reaching forward, the other is being pulled down and back.

It is now only a matter of simultaneously kicking with the legs and stroking with the arms to move the body along. When the learner can do this, he is actually swimming! He is using the so-called “dog paddle,” the basic swimming stroke.

Bien sûr, there is much more to learn to become a good swimmer. In time, the person will lengthen his arm stroke, eventually finding that he can increase his speed by reaching out over the water. Now he is beginning the crawl stroke, the fastest and most popular one. But he needs to learn to synchronize proper breathing with his arm and leg movements to do it successfully. All of this takes practice, practice and more practice. toutefois, knowing how to swim not only can contribute to many hours of pleasurable activity, but may save one’s life as well.

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