Our first step was to get Ollie to stand in the water and be comfortable. I would let him hold on to me for dear life but made him stand on the steps. We made him stand there until he calmed down. Every trip to the pool started this way even after he wasn't scared to stand.
2. Talk Softly and Encourage
The whole time Ollie was in the pool I talked to him softly in his ear and held him close. I would say "trust mommy", "Mommy's got you", "I love you", "you are safe", etc. You get the point. I could feel his body relax the more I talked to him.
3. Stay Until They Calm Down
With every new step further into the water, I never let him get out of the pool until he calmed down. When we moved from standing on the steps to sitting in my lap, he clung to me and cried but after about a minute he would calm down and start splashing a bit. Once he was calm I would let him get out and play on land before trying again.
4. Protect From Sun Burns
The last thing you want is your kids to associate the pool with pain! Make sure to use a safe sun block or even better, sun shirts. Ollie wears sun shirts from UVSkinz when we take him to the pool. I don't care that some people think they are unnecessary, there is no reason for a 1 year old to have a sun burn. UVSkinz makes sun safe clothes for the whole family and has a fantastic mission to protect loved ones from skin cancer.
5. Take Breaks
Like I mentioned in #3, I let Ollie take breaks once he had calmed down. I would let him play on the edge of the pool with a ball or truck. After a few trips, he would start crawling to the edge of the pool and would put his feet in on his own! Allowing him to start initiating the pool was a huge step.
Our most successful trick was distraction! Oliver loves balls, but in order to hold and throw his balls he had to let go of his death grip on me. I would hold his waist and let him play with the balls. Every few minutes he would remember he was scared and jump in my arms, but the more we distracted him, the less often this happened.
7. Introduce Pool Float on Land
He was not a fan of his pool float in the beginning. I brought it in the house and let him push it around and sit in it to associate it with fun.
8. 1-2-3 in Silly Voices
One way to move your child from one step to the next is by using a "1,2,3" method. This worked particularly well for us when trying to get him to put his stomach and chest under water (we haven't tried the head yet). We would use silly voices and count "1,2,3" and then dunk him. He was so busy laughing that the moment of chest deep water was over before he could get upset.
9. Don't Give Up
They will conquer the fear! 2 days of 2 pool trips a day and Ollie was splashing around having a blast! By the last pool trip he was chest deep in water playing with balls with no problem! Don't give up.