My three year old is terrified of getting in the swimming pool. We've only recently started swimming lessons and have not been successful at all. We has suspended lessons for now. My son is not all that keen on the bath either. How do I help him enjoy the water, and enjoy being taught how to swim? Mum of one with another on the way.
I often see children in my clinic who are fear based anxiety – a fear of water is very common for young children, what they particularly dislike and are scared of is the water being poured over their head or being underwater.
Seeing that the swimming lessons are that traumatic you are best to take a few big steps backwards and start at the beginning. As sometimes swimming lessons are difficult for more emotionally sensitive children regardless. So I recommend going right back to the beginning and introducing water to him.
Go back to your son just playing with water and start with small steps. Set him up at the kitchen sink with a few toys or dishes that you need to have washed with a stepping stool, some detergent (kids love bubbles) and a soft cloth. Find other ways that you can introduce water play to your son. A collection of funnels, pouring cups, and containers is a great way to start. Add these into his bath time as well, find a few floating animals etc.
Just go back to playing with water and having fun! Depending on the weather getting outside with bubbles, buckets, hoses and containers is a great idea and slowly build up to bigger plastic containers that he can actually climb into and sit in once he is comfortable with general water play.
Once he’s playing move to the next step which is too actually start to pour water over his face, the best way to do so is to have a measuring jug from the kitchen and as he plays gradually pour a little water down the side of his head etc. Be sure to laugh, clap and be surprised with your expressions every time despite his initial pull back or shock at a little water. Build on these experiences. Save swimming lessons for the future when he is actually calm around water and then find a swim school that is experienced in encouraging him rather than just forcing the issue. Before long he will be calm and comfortable with water.