How to give the gift of the ocean to your child

When my niece Nyah was two I was lucky enough to be able to introduce her to the ocean.

They were magical moments for both of us and Nyah is now absolutely in love with the beach and swimming – in fact, she started nippers on the weekend!

It’s so cool to get swimming updates from her and I look forward to teaching her more and watching her grow up an ocean kid.

Introducing your child to the ocean and ensuring they learn to love it as much as you do can be a tricky time for parents.

Get it right and you and your child will enjoy Australia’s favourite playground for life, get it wrong and the beach will be a place of horror for your child and you’ll never be the perfect beach family you wish you were.

Nyah the lifesaver
She was only two, but becoming an ocean lover was in her blood.

So how do you ensure your child learns to love the ocean?

First up, you don’t need to rush. The first stages should all be about enjoyment and fun. If they’re not into it, and this goes for nippers too, then do something else and come back to it later.

Be mindful that children are little – this might sound silly, but parents seem to forget this once they hit the sand. Waves will sound louder, look scarier, and appear many times larger! Want to see what that feels like? Get on your knees beside them.

Nyah first swimming lesson
Nyah in her first swimming lesson with dad (my brother) Justin.

When you’re at the beach have the kids play with seaweed, explore the rocky shore and make shell jewellery – anything that teaches them to respect the ocean environment and reduces their anxiety towards the oceans “creepy crawlies’.

In the water always swim within hands reach of your child, have a fun and encouraging attitude and when they get dumped by a wave, be right there with a huge smile, tell them how cool it was to watch and give them a high five!

Andre and Nyah at the beach
Andre taking Nyah for a swim on his home beach, Wainui, NZ.

For the ultimate gift, keep them in swimming lessons well into their teens, buy them a surfboard and take them to be beach as often as possible.

For kids lessons from the pro’s see check out our OceanFit 4 Kids program.

Nyah having a ball in the ocean at nippers.
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  1. We initially thought Nyah didn’t like the water as every time we took her to the pools she would scream and just wanted to get out of the pool. I thought because I was a competitive swimmer I would know how to help Nyah enjoy the water as much as I did. When Andre was in Auckland he came along to the pools with us and in five minutes he had Nyah laughing and splashing in the water like she had been swimming for months. It took this experience for me to understand the benefits a trained and knowledgable swimming / ocean trainer can provide. My only regret is that we didn’t seek help sooner. Taking Nyah swimming is now something Nyah and I look forward to every Sunday.