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Tap into Health: Learning to swim through exposure

For most children, the first step to learning how to swim is feeling comfortable and having fun in the water.

No matter their age, no child is going to learn how to swim safely unless they are comfortable playing in and enjoying the water. This is why the instructors at Old Town Hot Springs teach young children how to swim through playful and productive exposure to aquatic environments.

“When I’m teaching the little ones through exposure, I really want them to love playing in the water,” said Bebe Lloyd, swim instructor at Old Town Hot Springs. “It’s all about the fun piece. They get excited to be at the pool and play in the pool. Then they start to want to do it on their own.”



Exposing babies and toddlers to aquatic environments

Learning to swim and becoming comfortable with aquatic environments can start right away for young children with bath time. Lloyd suggests bringing some of your child’s favorite bath toys to the pool to help facilitate a playful transition from the bathtub at home to the larger pool environment. Parents should start bringing young children to the pool one to two times per week as early as possible for water-based play.

“I love the parents that get them in the water sooner, not even necessarily with an instructor,” said Lloyd. “Bring your child to the pool once a week starting at six months.”



Private Lessons and group swim lessons

One of the largest benefits of private or group swim lessons for young children is the accountability and consistency of practice. Trained professional swim instructors at Old Town Hot Springs are well versed in dozens of pool-based games to help engage children with the aquatic environment and help build foundational swimming skills.

Lloyd describes how she turns the larger pool into an aquatic world for learning swimmers, including “Mermaid World,” “Lava World,” and other zones with specific characteristics and games designed to stimulate fun and skill-building. Activities like underwater tea parties and floating exercises get children comfortable with the foundational skills of swimming.

Private lessons are advantageous for children who need one-on-one interactions and customized programming. Group swim lessons offer kids the opportunity to learn from their peers and participate in larger pool-based games like sharks and minnows or red light green light.

First aquatic milestones for children

The skills parents should look for throughout early aquatic development range from comfortable play to the first underwater experiences. Here are the milestones swim instructors at Old Town Hot Springs are looking for when helping children learn to swim.

1. Comfort and confidence in the water, playing independently or with peers.

2. Comfort and confidence floating on their back, with assistance and independently.

3. Comfort and confidence gliding (also known as “rocket-shipping”) through the water. This is where children place their feet against the wall of the pool, extend their arms out in front of them and push off the wall to experience a gliding motion.

4. Next students are encouraged to start putting their faces under the water. This corresponds with learning to blow bubbles out of their nose underwater.

“I used to be a high school chemistry teacher, so I love incorporating science into my lessons,” said Lloyd. “I teach kids to blow nose bubbles by telling them to hum underwater. If you are humming underwater, you are blowing air out your nose and water physically cannot enter.”

Finally, students start to learn their first swim strokes, such as the “Ice Cream Scoop” stroke, which teaches students how to coordinate their arm and leg movements for swimming.

Learning to swim at Old Town Hot Springs

Parents have many options for teaching their children to swim at Old Town Hot Springs. Start by bringing your children to the pool for play sessions frequently throughout their early childhood. Next, consider enrolling your child in private or group swim lessons for their appropriate age group.

Adults who are interested in learning how to swim should consider scheduling private lessons with a member of the aquatics staff.

“With adults, we go straight to the lap lanes and we work on technique using kickboards,” said Lloyd. “We’re teaching them so they can swim for exercise and safety, or they want to go snorkeling or scuba diving or for cross-training if they’ve had an injury.”

Sarah Konopka is the marketing director at Old Town Hot Springs. Visit Old Town Hot Springs in person or at OldTownHotSprings.org to learn more about available programming.


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