What is Cup Conditioning?

Cup conditioning is designed to teach infants and toddlers one main vital water survival skills - how to hold their breath on command.

Cup conditioning is a foundational drill used at Little Fins in teaching Infant Survival Swimming Lessons. Featured in our Survival 1 and 2 Programs, it's designed to teach infants and toddlers one main vital water survival skills - how to hold their breath on command. Over time, with positive reinforcement, this skill forms the foundation for many other skills such as submersions, floats and rolls.

Cup Conditioning specifically refers to the practice of gradually introducing water on a child's head and face in a controlled and supportive manner. Instructors use a small cup to pour water over the child's forehead, allowing drops of water to trickle down onto their face. This process is incremental, starting with a few drops and gradually increasing the amount as the child becomes more comfortable.

The specific steps we take when cup conditioning are:

  1. While holding a child, make eye contact
  2. Say the trigger words: ‘Their Name’, Ready, Go!
  3. From a small cup, gently pour water onto their forehead for approximately 1-2 seconds
  4. Congratulate the baby on a job well done! 

The goal is to be able to repeat the drill every few seconds without causing any stress, negative response, or ingestion of water. This is a skill that once mastered can be safely practiced at home in the bathtub. 

Here are just a few more key benefits of Cup Conditioning:

-Facilitating Breath Control: 

  • Cup conditioning plays a major role in developing an infant's ability to control their breath. As water is introduced in a controlled manner, infants learn to coordinate their breathing, a fundamental skill in swimming and water safety.

- Familiarizing Infants with Water Sensations: 

  • Cup conditioning helps infants become accustomed to the sensation of water on their faces. This is crucial because, in a water-related emergency, a child's ability to remain calm and oriented can be a lifesaving factor.

- Building Confidence and Trust: 

  • The gradual nature of cup conditioning builds trust and is a great bonding experience between the parent and child. It allows infants to feel secure in the water, fostering a positive and confident attitude towards swimming and water activities.

- Preventing Fear of Water: 

  • Fear of water is a common concern for infants. Cup conditioning, by introducing water in a controlled and non-threatening way, helps mitigate this fear. It ensures that infants associate water with positive experiences, laying the foundation for a healthy relationship with aquatic environments.

Cup conditioning is an integral component of our Infant Survival Swimming program. We hope that by parents understanding the significance of cup conditioning we can empower them to actively participate in and support their infants' journey to becoming confident and safe swimmers from a very young age.

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