Actually, he does it very well. Most of the time, at any rate. We were always very laid back and let him fall and get up on his own. This resulted in a kid who just laughs at his own bumps and bruises. So far, so good.
What troubles me, is that when he falls near any amount of water, he bends his back and neck bacwards, as if to avoid getting his face in the water. This has twice resulted in a couple of scary falls where I have thought he had broken his neck, as he has flipped enough to fall on his head.
Is there any safe way to teach him how to handle this type of falls? I never went to ninja camp nor had any kind of gymnastics experience, so I am a bit clueless about this stuff.
I do realize that the fact that he is not yet a competent swimmer might be a factor, and it is somehow making him react to water by trying to keep his head as high as possible. We are working on that. Actually, he is very comfortable in the water and he will submerge his head on purpose to blow bubbles and what not.
Any help would be much appreciated.
Teach him to swim, and the rest will take care of itself.
I wouldn’t think you could ‘teach’ someone how to fall - I would have thought most falling behaviours are actually reflexes?
No, you can learn how to fall "better (ie with less chance of injury) – such things are routinely taught in sports where falling with potential for injury is an when, not an if – such as martial arts and horseback riding.
For example, you can “unlearn” the body’s relfex to put out a hand to break your fall – and save yourself several broken wrists over a lifetime.
However, I doubt a 3 year old has the muscle control or conceptual powers to achieve this. I could be wrong, but if you can’t do “heads shoulders knees and toes” how are you going to marshall your intellect to overcome instinct?
I think 5 is the youngest they’ll teach at my Karate dojo – and is also the youngest student I have ever taught to ride a horse (but she was a VERY exceptional 5 year old, for the most part I won’t start them till 7 and even then their body awareness is low.)
Also, to the OP, I am having a very hard time visualizing the problem – the kid is falling forward or backward when exhibiting this behavior? Puts his hands out or doesn’t? How does he end up on his head?
Adding, volleyball and soccer are other sports where you learn to fall better. I’ve had cause to be glad I learned to do volleyball dives in my life, when slipping in wet leaves on brick, on a downhill incline. I got bruises, but no broken bones.
As Hello Again stated, you can certainly learn how to properly fall or at least to condition that reflex so as to either go with the fall or to roll a shoulder in order to take the brunt of it.
Either way, it would seem a challenge to get this across to a three-year old.
However with the problem you have outlined here, I would start getting him used to the idea of falling into the water and not worrying about it hitting him in the face.
I would suggest having him cross his arms across his chest and then falling into the water face first to show that there is nothing to be afraid of. Then -maybe using one hand to hold his nose, start the same process falling backwards. You could even work your way up to doing this from the edge of the pool to foster an interest in diving.
Can’t promise any success with this technique but it seems worth a try.
The two times this has happened, we have been in the kiddie pool (about 10 inches of water, plastic film bottom over grass). We are horsing around and he has fallen once from my shoulders while I was sitting, the other time from my back while I was on all four. He falls forward and rotates forward and lands on his head. If he only tucked his chin in, instead of arcing back, he would fall on his shoulders and be ok. As it has happened, the fall really compresses his back the wrong way and he complains about it (a rarity for him).
I considered Karate lessons. The places I have been to won’t take him yet, but I heard about another place where they will take them from 3 years old. Of course that I don’t really expect them to be learning any falling techniques at that age.
Formal swimming lessons are definitely on the cards. Still, as I said, although he cannot swim, he is very comfortable in the water. He jumps from the edge of a real swimming pool and comes to the surface where he waits for my “rescue”. With a flotation vest, he can trek very inefficiently but effectively across the pool. That said, I am sure that his fear of the water is being a factor.
Heads, shoulders, knees and toes are still a bit of a challenge, so I realize this is going to take some time. Maybe cutting down on the horsing around is what is needed for the time being, but still.
Any other activity besides swimming and karate that would help?
Soccer goalie training? But, as others have noted, the age/coordination is an issue.