Informant: We were trying to get kids to go under the water. We were trying to get kids to learn how to hold their breath, open their eyes, and the way to distract them from the fact that they’re going under the water, holding their breath, and opening their eyes, was to say, “We’re going to have a tea party sitting on the bottom of the pool.” The idea for a young kid to sit on the bottom of the pool, that’s intriguing, nobody necessarily has a problem with that, so when you tell them, “We’re going to sit on the bottom of the pool and have a tea party but you have to tell me what you’re eating and what you’re drinking,” they’re thinking about about what they’re eating and what they’re drinking, they’re not thinking about the fact that, ‘I have to hold my breath, open my eyes, and go under water which is fuckin’ freaky.” And so we had tea parties.
Background: The informant has been teaching swim lessons in the summer with family for many years now. The tradition of teaching local children how to swim goes back multiple generations starting with the informant’s grandmother and continuing with her children. This game has been played for many years when teaching the children.
Context: The game was played with children mostly in the 4-6 year old age range. They were in the stages of learning to swim where they are gaining mobility in the water but are still battling discomfort and fear about going underwater. The game would be played in small groups, and the children would go around the circle telling the instructor what they were going to eat and drink. Then, all at the same time, the children would jump up and then allow themselves to fall down to sit on the bottom of the pool (in the shallow end). While on the bottom, they would mimic eating and drinking at a tea party and open their eyes to look at one another.
Thoughts: As the informant explains, having a “tea party” with the children on the bottom of the pool is a very effective way to distract them from the aspects of the water that they are afraid of and allow them to practice essential skills to swimming. The idea of a tea party is a very common one when talking to and interacting with children, and this familiarity helps them to engage with it easily and readily.