Teaching toddlers to tread water has come a long way since the storied method of "toss them in, and let them sink or swim."
"(Our approach is) very slowly introducing them to the water, games, different types of activities, using toys, singing," says Melissa Maddox, aquatics director at Ashland Family YMCA.
Pingpong balls, little squeezy water toys, animal-shaped floaties and circling up to sing the hokeypokey are all techniques used at the Ashland Y to promote fun in the water.
Swimming at the tot — and even infant — stage is primarily about preventing aquaphobia.
"At that age, they're learning to put the faces in the water, to blow bubbles, learning respect for the water. They're learning rules," says Maddox. "With a 2-year-old, you can't give too much structure because they're not getting the purpose of that structure."
In YMCA classes, each child is accompanied by a parent. The instructor circulates to help demonstrate and fine-tune the instructions. This method increases the comfort levels of both child and parent and allows such small children to learn safely in a group setting with a single instructor.