Shayna Gavin, Splash Principal Physiotherapist
What bathtime games can help children get used to water on their face?
Bathtime is the best time to get used to having water on your child's face, and to learn to enjoy playing with water. And many swim schools say the best time to start is with baby's first bath.
Keep it fun!
We start with playing with cups, containers and shower buckets. We pour water in and out, between containers, on our hands and over toys. Help your child to do the same. They love to watch water falling.
Many families enjoy adding in songs like "It's raining, it's pouring", "Raindrops keep falling on my head" and "Splish splash I was taking a bath".
Once they're engaged and undertanding what's happening with the container play, start to talk with them about water on parts of their body.
eg. Water on your hand/ arm/ shoulders/ belly/ back/ head
Label the action, watch for them to understand what's happening and pay attention, say ready set go, then pour the water.
A small dribble of water on the face
Then we start with just a small dribble of water over their face. Use the same process as above, and start to pour the water infront of them, along their arm, over their back, the back of their head, then just a little dribble over the face.
It's great to have a toy they like ready to go straight away and get them interested in it straight away.
Encourage them to blink away water on their face. Resist the temptation to wipe their faces! We need children to become comfortable with water on their face. In an emergency situation, we want them to get on with getting to safety, not fussing about water on their face and in their eyes. It can seem silly to be thinking about that at a young age, but habits and patterns form quickly.
If your child copes well, you can look at increasing the water. That means that they did not breathe in while water was on their face, they made a response that showed they were aware of the water on their face, and they weren't too fussed about it. You should also be feeling confident and comfortable before increasing.
You and your child should both be having fun!
If you are unsure
If you are concerned or unsure about your child's response, seek advice. Some examples include:
if they don't seem to be paying attention to your cues or the water
if they are coughing and spluttering
if they are upset
if they breathe in while water is on their face
if you don't feel confident and comfortable
If your child struggles with controlling their saliva or eating or drinking, or if they get frequent colds and chest infections, you should seek advice before trying this yourself.
How to progress
We gradually increase this amount of water, to a quarter cup, to a full cup, to a full bucket!
Once you are doing more than just a dribble, be sure to vary the amount of water each time. We want children to learn that they hold their breath until water is clear from their face, rather than a stereotyped response of a second or two.
Well that's the next step!
We're happy to assess how your child is going with water over their face, and help you with cues and positioning for your child's first time underwater :-)
** All information provided is of a general nature. Consult your physiotherapist for individualised advice based on your child's needs.**