A young mother said, "Our baby just loves his B-A-T-H. Should we give her swimming lessons?" I blurted out, "Of course! But not yet. Wait about three more years." Her baby was 13 months old, walking, saying a few words, and the parents had to spell "bath."
My curt answer was based on the American Academy of Pediatricians’ statement that there is no such thing as "drown-proofing a preschooler" by teaching it to swim. With that in mind, I devised a simple game for parents and their little ones to play at bath time. I call it Granny’s Safety Game; it’s a fun ritual that parents and child do together. It fosters a lasting parent/child relationship to be cherished and could possibly save a precious life.
Little ones do not recognize the difference between the bath water they love, the water in the dog’s pan, a swimming pool, a sewage lagoon, the mop bucket, a creek or even a toilet with the lid left up. However, they do know that water is fun. It’s for dabbling in, kicking in, splashing, tasting and spitting.
My message to parents of happy, curious babies is this: Remove the temptations or fence them off! Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related accidental deaths of tots. Five thousand of them go to hospitals each year; many survive - a thousand do not! The babe-in-arms today will be a climber tomorrow, and the parent must prepare for that. Sing or chant about things you wish to teach your baby - fun, toys, the authority of parents as lifeguards. Do this in little hints - in song or chant - at an age when Baby is eager to learn everything. Sing or chant nonsensical ditties:
"Time for bath; let’s find a toy.
If it floats, we’ll both enjoy."
At bath time, don’t draw the water! Take your tiny babe-in-arms with you to collect the towel, washcloth, diaper, lotion, hairbrush, pajamas and floating toy. Brag when Baby wants to hold things as you collect. A toddler can help by finding and bringing the things to you one at a time. You’re establishing a ritual. It’s play-acting. Later Baby can have his or her own bag in which to collect things. Let him drag it like a sled if that works best. Compose your own silly ditties to sing or chant. Your baby will love your part in this, even if you’re off key. Don’t draw the water yet! Tell baby or toddler, "Mother is your lifeguard. You must wait for your lifeguard to help you into the water. Always wait for the lifeguard."
"Too warm? Too cold? What a sight!
This baby’s water must be just right!"
Let your child watch you test the temperature of the water with your elbow, and when you are putting the child in, stop and let him test it with his heel. Do not allow him to touch the faucets!
"Soap and water makes us sweet
Don’t forget to scrub both feet!"
The underlying reason for this game is to emphasize the importance of the parent lifeguard. Chant this oldie while toweling your youngster:
"Rub-a-dub, dub; three men in a tub.
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker...
Rub-a-dub, dub, a-dub-dub."
When you and your toddler play in the park, say "Hold Mother’s hand when you see water."
It’s as simple as that. I learned that from the young mother who had to spell "bath" near her little girl.
Thanks, Nikki and Melone! You helped me tell hundreds of mothers today!