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Is My Child Ready to Dive?

Getting beyond a feet-first pencil jump and joining the older kids in the deep end is a big deal at this age. Help her take the plunge:

Go the distance. In deeper water, she'll need to have the endurance to swim from the middle of the pool to the ladder, as well as the ability to tread water for one minute (in case there's a wait to climb out).

Quiz her on safety. Katrina Ramser-Parrish, a swim teacher in Novato, CA, and creator of Squidkid.org, a swim-instruction resource for parents, likes to probe her wannabe divers. "I'll suggest to the kids that we head over to the shallow end to get started. And if they don't object, then that's my signal to review some basic safety." (If they're old enough to dive, they're old enough to realize they should never attempt it in less than six feet of water.)

Look before you leap. Make sure your kid knows not to jump unless the area in front of her is clear. Also, she should ask the lifeguard if there's an age or height minimum to use a diving board.

Ease into it. Start by having your child sit on the pool's edge with her arms pointing straight out (like they're glued to her ears) and her fingers curled downward. A kneeling dive is next: one knee down, her butt up in the air, and the toes of her other leg on the edge of the pool so she can push off. A standing dive is the last position, when she's got the other two moves down pat.

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