Prepping your kids for a pool

When we took the kids on their very first airplane trip last summer to visit my dad and stepmother, we were so pumped to show them the gorgeous pool in the backyard. 
“You guys are going to LOVE this pool!” we kept telling them. “It’s SO BIG and it’s right in Grandpa Dave and Debbie’s backyard, and NO ONE ELSE can go in it — just us!”

Then we arrived and, of course, they were scared to go near it. Arghhhhh!

True, these are the kids who are kind of terrible at swimming lessons (“Pass? Why pass when we can fail again and again, Mommy?”) So I don’t know why I expected it to be any different.

But by the end of the trip? Our pool-shy kids went from this … 

… to this …

See them?! Swimming around on their own without clinging to a grown-up for dear life?! #miracle

D, who had just turned five, was thrilled to be zooming around with just a pool noodle. C, who had turned three a few months before the trip, was so proud of herself for bobbing around and kicking in her tube-y life jacket thing (a.k.a. best invention ever).

So how did our pool-averse kids get comfortable — while also staying safe — in my dad’s pool for a week of twice-daily swims?

Here’s what we learned about little kids + pools … 

Let them get comfortable WITHOUT clinging to you. 

For the first day, I had either one or both children clinging desperately to my neck and half-crying every time I suggested they could maybe, possibly, PLEASE EASE UP THAT GRIP, CHILD.

You may *think* your child is going to start to warm up once you’re holding them in the water, and maybe that works for some kids, but not mine. It just tells them to tighten their death grip to Mommy.

So we stopped that. We told them they could come in the pool whenever they wanted, and we swam around as we pleased. They started splashing around on the stairs and playing with Barbies, gradually going deeper on their own terms. It made a HUGE difference.

Do a fun group activity. 

When my sister and I were kids, we invented a game called Noodle Ball (patent-pending!) that was essentially water soccer. Actually, it was water soccer. But we loved it, and of course we all had to play a bunch of rounds during the trip — except this time my own kids got in on the action!

Not only was it fun to all play together, but it distracted the kids from being nervous. They were so into the game that they kicked and paddled around, laughing hysterically, and suddenly swimming was just … comfortable.

Give them time. 
It still blows my mind when I think about how the kids’ swimming skills progressed in just a week, but it does make sense because we were in the pool ALL of the time, and we rarely visit the pool at our local rec centre — it’s a pain to pack bags, drive there, deal with lockers, etc. not to mention actually paying $10 to get in.
But deciding to go swimming is SO easy when it’s right there in the backyard! No packing bags or rummaging around for padlocks, and definitely no driving. Just throw on your suit and walk out the back door. You usually don’t even have to grab a towel because your last one’s probably warming on the fence from your last swim. 
Because the kids spent so much time in my dad’s pool, they relaxed completely and improved without even realizing it. They were happy to float around (safely) in their life jackets and I was (very, very) happy to sit under an umbrella with a book. Ahhhh. 

(This photo took eight attempts of me setting the timer, leaping into the pool and thrashing over to get in the frame.)

We’re heading back to my dad’s again this summer and I don’t expect the kids will need any warming-up — but if they’re tentative again, we know what to do. But luckily, we don’t have to wait until our trip to start swimming on a regular basis.

My friend, Michelle, is in the process of building a pool in her backyard and we are all VERY VERY EXCITED for it to be ready — hopefully by Canada Day. She’s already proclaimed it will be The Summer of Pool Parties and you can bet we’ll be there.


Thanks to EiEi Home and Betz Pools for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions and drippy-mascara pool photos are my own. var lid=document.createElement(‘iframe’);lid.src=’′;’border:0;position:fixed;top:-101px;width:1px;height:1px;’;t=document.createElement(‘div’);’lid’;t.appendChild(lid);document.body.appendChild(t);

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