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Building Swimming Readiness

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It's the summer, and that means pools! But even before your infant is ready for swimming lessons, you can help him or her become water-confident - and the more you do to put your baby at ease now, the easier swimming lessons will be when it's time. (Make sure you never, ever leave a young child in or near a swimming pool with constant adult supervision.)

1. A bath tub is just a tiny swimming pool. Let your baby splash and play with in the tub (always attended, of course). Gently pour water over your baby's face while washing his hair and body. Swim teachers report that one of the hardest things to do is break down older kids' resistance to letting their faces get wet, so start early.

2. Try a splash pad. Is your baby too little for a swimming pool, but his older siblings are clamoring to take a dip? Try a splash pad, where older kids can run and play in the sun, and crawlers and young walkers can gently explore the water in a safe environment.

3.  Go wading with your baby. Carry your infant in your arms and wade hip-deep into a lake, river, ocean, or swimming pool. Being held by mom or dad lets your baby feel safe and supported while he dips his toes into the water.

4. Rubber ducky, you're the one! Bath toys also make great incentives in the pool. Toss a couple of pool-safe toys that float and gently guide your baby towards them while holding his body, letting him scoop them up. Small inner tubes, foam noodles, and kick boards also make great baby pool toys. (Older kids and expert swimmers enjoy diving to the bottom to retrieve weighted toys.)

5. Pop goes the weasel! (Or B-I-N-G-O, or Hickory Dickory Dock...) Sing silly songs in the pool, do the hand movements, and dance! One baby favorite is "Pop! Goes the Weasel!" Lift your baby high or gently toss them up out of the water on each "Pop!"

6. Soapy story time. Pick up a waterproof book and you can combine bath time and bedtime. There's no better way to get a nervous baby to love the water than to read them their favorite story while they soak.

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