For many children, the concept of diving into a swimming pool is strange and daunting. Sure, a simple cannonball is no big deal — but diving in hands-first? Staying in a tight position the entire time? It can be a difficult task for young swimmers to accomplish.
However, diving is an important part of every child’s swimming education. As a parent, you can help your child master diving with a few short lessons — but it is absolutely critical that you’re familiar with pool diving safety. Just as you would protect your kids with a strong mesh fence or cover, their swimming education is a huge factor in their safety.
So, how do you teach a child to dive? The answer, to put it simply, is SLOWLY. Working gradually with your child, starting with a simple jump and moving towards a graceful dive, is the best way to ensure they understand the concepts (and stay safe in the meantime). Here are a few tips that can help you teach your child to dive.
Stay in the Deep End
Most children don’t learn to dive until they are a bit older — around 7 or 8 years old. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, very young children tend to think of water as a solid object; their fear of falling into it causes them to flail and brace themselves, like they would falling onto solid ground, which can cause injury. As kids get older, they can better understand what they’re diving into.
Secondly, most children wait to dive until they’re older because diving must happen in the deep end. This rule is pool diving safety 101: the deep end provides plenty of room, while diving in the shallow end can lead to devastating head and spinal cord injuries.
According to physicians at Cincinnati’s Mayfield Brain and Spine clinic, one of every 10 injuries to the cervical spinal cord is caused by a diving accident. It’s essential to talk with your child as they learn to dive and let them know how important it is that they only dive in the deep end.
Start with a Jump
Let’s say that your child isn’t quite ready for diving. Maybe he or she isn’t old enough, or maybe they are older, but still a little afraid of the water. How can you help them get comfortable with the concept of diving? Easy — just start with a feet-first jump!
Jumping into the pool can help your child overcome the “scary” elements of diving: stepping off the pool deck, getting a facefull of water, dropping into the depths of the deep end, you get the drill. Practicing simple jumps will build their confidence and help them get comfortable, preparing them to dive in head- (and hands-) first.
The rules for jumping are similar to those for pool diving safety; always jump from the deep end (if your kid isn’t yet comfortable there, give them a floatie or hang out in the watch to catch them), and build gradually to an independent jump. Hold both your child’s hands for their first jump, and let go as they gain more confidence.
Work Your Way Up
Once your child is very comfortable with the feet-first jump, it’s time to move on to the next phase. Most children have a very tough time diving because they’re afraid of flipping over, going into the water head first. The best way to help someone overcome this fear is by eliminating the distance between the child and the water.
Have your child sit on the edge of the deep end (remember your pool diving safety — always the deep end) and clasp their hands over their head in the classic diving position. Tell them to keep their arms straight and pressed against their ears, and to keep their chin tucked against their chest. Then, ask them to bend at the waist and simply drop into the water. Just like that, they’re diving!
As your child gains more confidence, you can slowly increase the space between their heads and the water. Move from a seated dive to a kneeling one, then from a kneeling dive to a “track start” dive (in which the child has a staggered, crouching stance, like a runner at the start of a race). Over time, your child will be able to safely dive from any position.
Talk About Safety
In our opinion, the most important aspect of pool diving safety is knowing when not to dive. Many children and adults are injured each year because of improper diving practices, and it’s important that your child knows the rules from day one.
We’ve already talked about staying in the deep end (but we really can’t stress it enough — dive from the deep end), but there are other rules you need to explain to help your child dive safely. Never allow them to dive onto pool toys like inner tubes, and never dive when another person is swimming in front of you. These simple rules will help your child and their friends stay safe in the pool.
Stick Around to Supervise
You may think that your job is done. You’ve taught your child to dive with confidence, you’ve taught them the necessary pool diving safety rules — now it’s time to kick back, relax, maybe see what’s happening on Facebook, right? No way! You still have one very important job: supervise the swimmers!
Even if your pool was filled with Olympic-level athletes, it is absolutely essential to always have someone watching for trouble at a swimming pool. If people are swimming and you’re not, it’s your job to grab a chair, avoid distractions (like your phone), and keep a weather eye for signs of trouble. Your diligence will help ensure that everyone has a fun and safe swimming experience.
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