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Swimming is a life skill that every child should have. In addition to helping in an emergency situation, teaching your kids how to swim can help them develop a lifelong love of the water. Here are a few strategies to teach your kids how to swim.

Introduce Your Child Early

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As long as you have the right protective equipment, it’s never too early to introduce children to the water. Playing games with the family will help the child associate the water with fun time. Swimming programs for toddlers should focus more on water games and get a child comfortable. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend formal swimming lessons for children until they are at least four years old. However, you can still play games that reinforce swimming basics, such as “Red Light, Green Light” or “Marco Polo.”

Give Them Plenty of Practice

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It’s important for your child to have plenty of practice swimming. Having your own pool can make a big difference. For other swimming opportunities, consider local swimming pools, community centers, and water parks. But always keep a watchful eye on your child as he or she is learning.

Enroll in Classes

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Consider enrolling your child in formal classes. A young lifeguard may also be willing to offer a few lessons at an inexpensive price. If you have your own pool, this person may agree to teach your child where he or she is already comfortable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for children age four and older because these often reduce safety risks. However, it also cautions that each child develops differently.

Start with the Basics

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Whether you teach your child to swim yourself or with another person, start with more basic movements and move your way up to more complicated strokes. A breaststroke is a common first stroke for beginners because it involves movements that keep the child above water. The next stroke that you may teach is the backstroke, in which the child lies on his or her back, moving his or her arms alternately in a windmill-like fashion while kicking in a flutter fashion. The doggy paddle is also a popular basic swimming technique because it easily allows a child to come to the surface and stay afloat easily.

Some parents prefer to have their children develop stronger kicking skills to assist with the process and may employ the use of a kickboard to help their children practice kicking while getting comfortable in the water.

Every child has different strengths and weaknesses. Let your child take the lead on how the learning goes and be sure to provide him or her with ample time to practice these new skills.

Pool Safety

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Whether your child is just learning the basics of swimming or she has fish in her blood, pool safety must always be at the top of a parent’s mind. Today, there are many affordable options that enhance the safety of a pool, including an auto-cover. This device closes and retracts as needed. It allows parents to cover up the pool when an adult or adequate supervision is not possible. It also helps prevent unwanted visitors from accessing the pool when the homeowners are not there. Because the auto-cover helps insulate the pool, homeowners may also save on utility expenses by not having to heat the pool as much.

An alternative to an auto-cover is a gated fence. Homeowners can install a fence around the property line to create boundaries for the pool’s use. Many city ordinances require that a fence is installed to keep out unauthorized visitors.