Chase Away Your Little One’s Winter Blues

Maybe you’re one of the lucky parents who is having a snowy winter and your children are worn out from sledding, ice skating and snow ball fights. Or maybe you’re like me and it’s too cold to play outside but no snow in sight. Or maybe you have babies or very young children who are still at the point where the time spent outside before they are freezing cold is roughly half the amount of time you spent bundling them into snow pants, coats, boots and mittens. So how do you keep your children active, happy and worn out at the end of the day? Try a quick trip to your YMCA or Park District pool or even just a mid-day bath to soothe your savage beasts and chase away the winter blues.

There are a number of fun water safety games you can play with your child, starting as infants and adding as they get older – because they are fun, you are making a good experience even more positive while you are teaching them to be safe – it’s a win-win!

  • Bath time: Start first by being positive with your baby in the bath. Toys, songs, allowing them to splash are all important ways of making your baby comfortable in and around water which will lessen their fear later on. It’s especially good for your baby to gradually get used to having water poured over their face – it’s the first step to putting their face in and blowing bubbles. Splashing may make a mess but it also lets a baby control water getting in their face. Talk to your baby, tell them you will always be near them when they are in water – and then do it – never leave your child alone in the tub. I still check regularly and my daughter is 9.
  • Humpty Dumpty: Start playing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ when your child can first sit up, even if it’s only with your help. The child sits on the side of the pool while you hold them, you sing ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and when Humpty does a big fall you help your child ‘fall’ forward and then say ‘turn around and hold on!’ Their head doesn’t go under water and at first they probably can’t even grasp the side, so just put their fist on the side of the pool. But over time you graduate to having their head go under and eventually letting go of them, but always, ‘turn around and hold on’. Young children love the repetition of the familiar rhyme and the actions, as in I’ve played this game at least a thousand times with my two children.
  • Monkey Hands: When your child has the physical coordination, have them hold on to the side of the pool with both hands, with feet against the wall and ‘walk’ their hands around the pool. At first they may only be able to go a couple of feet – to the ladder or steps, but over time they’ll want to try going around the whole pool and then pulling themselves out on the side – no ladder or steps. If you’ve got older children, challenge them to go one length of the pool or all the way around – and watch them. You’re helping them build strength and confidence, if they ever fall in they won’t panic if they can’t immediately pull themselves out, they will know to do ‘monkey hands’ to the nearest step or ladder or just to hold on until help arrives.
  • For Older Kids: Holding a child’s hand and having them push down to touch the bottom of the pool, then where the pool slopes, is also great once they get a bit older and have mastered Humpty Dumpty and Monkey Hands. Again, it will help them internalize the correct reaction if they fall in – ‘oh yes, I just push up from the bottom and grab the side’. You are teaching them to just react correctly to save themselves. I moved on to jumping in the deep end and swimming the length of the pool, diving for rings, and ‘coral reef dives’ – they have to swim between my legs without touching the coral (my legs) or the coral will scrape them. My son, the future marine biologist, loved this one.

The idea with all these games is the same, give the child confidence, let them learn their limits in the water gradually, and most importantly, teach them what to do if they ever do fall in the water unexpectedly. You are teaching them to rescue themselves, or at worst, not panic for at least a crucial minute or two until you notice they are missing, because babies usually drown in bathtubs and children ages 1-5 usually drown in swimming pools. Don’t be surprised when each of your children progresses at a radically different rate. My son was diving and swimming competently at four, my daughter didn’t really connect until seven – but now they both love water, understand safety and their own limitations.

If you can get out and enjoy the frozen water (snow), remind your children to stay away from frozen ponds, lakes, streams and ponds unless the local authorities have declared them safe for ice skating. Water safety really is a year-round concern.


3 Responses to “Chase Away Your Little One’s Winter Blues”

  1. Bath time is what’s doing it for us. It’s not cold here in South Carolina so we can still have plenty of outdoor time and often without a coat but the kids still get restless, especially with my little one who is home with me all day. Love these ideas, I’ll try them out (he’s literally leaning on me right now).

  2. We don’t have an indoor pool nearby, but we will definitely be using some of these games this summer! Thanks for visiting me on my SITS Day, earlier this week!

  3. I here you on bath time @Momspective! My kids are 11 and 9 and I still pull out the mid-afternoon bath routine on occasion to break the cycle of tease-scream-tease-fight! And my pleasure @TheBusyMomsDiet – I enjoy learning from you as well!

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