The popularity of baby and toddler swimming lessons is growing: Water Babies swimming school now teaches over 42,000 little swimmers a week.
This magical time spent one-on-one with your little one in the relaxed environment of a warm swimming pool offers the chance for parents and carers – grandparents included! – to spend regular, quality, bonding time with their children every week.
Babies can learn start to swim from birth, Water Babies’ youngest swimmer was just one day old.
Babies can learn start to swim from birth, Water Babies’ youngest swimmer was just one day old. According to NHS guidelines babies don’t need to have had their vaccinations before they can swim.
In their first year, a baby’s brain grows more rapidly than at any other time, so it makes sense to start early and maximise their exposure to learning experiences in a variety of environments. Most Water Babies toddlers can swim short distances by around the age of two, and have mastered vital skills including how to turn around and hold on and, where possible, how to clamber out – fantastic safety skills should they ever fall into water.
Until they’re three or four children lack the strength and co-ordination to swim properly: their little bodies just aren’t proportioned for swimming on the surface — so they won’t be learning front crawl just yet!
Tips for ensuring your child is a confident swimmer
Use bath-time to prepare
Using this time of day to create a fun, aquatic environment will help your little one thrive in water, viewing it as something to be enjoyed and loved. This will make the transition to the pool much easier down the line.
- Encourage lots of splashing by playing with toys in the bath.
- Smile, sing and talk to them whilst maintaining lots of reassuring eye contact.
- Wrap them up in a lovely warm towel once bath time is over to keep them warm.
Don’t rush in to choosing a swimming school
Teaching babies to swim from birth is a skilled profession, requiring considerable in-depth knowledge. However, there is fairly limited regulation, so it’s vital that as a parent you take the time to make a well- informed choice about which classes you choose to take your little one to.
Double check qualifications and experience
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good company will be happy to answer your questions and this will help put your mind at ease! Incredibly, every Water Babies teacher could have trained as a private pilot – five times over – in the time it takes them to fully qualify! Plus, they’re the only ones who can obtain a national diploma in baby swimming.
Creating a checklist will help you feel confident you have everything you need when you leave the door. We recommend the following:
- Swim nappies – find out the pool’s policy, which may include an over nappy as well as a reusable swim nappy
- Changing mat – so you can change little one safely on the floor rather than a bench
- Snuggly towels – for both baby and you, to help you dry off and stay warm
- Wetsuit – if required (see next tip)
- Cosy hat – to keep your child warm after the lesson
Check the pool temperature
It should be at least 32 degrees if your little one is under three months old or less than 12lbs in weight, 30 degrees if they’re older or heavier – and think about investing in a baby wetsuit if necessary.
Have a pre lesson visit
If you are starting lessons, try to take your baby to the pool before the first one. Spend time on the side getting them used to the noises, colours, splashing and general hubbub of the pool environment – these will all be much louder than at home!
Bond in the water
As you enter the pool together for the first time, smile and talk to your baby to reassure them it’s a fun experience! It’s really important that you are calm and positive as they’ll take their cues from you. Get your shoulders under the water and hold your baby so the water covers their chest. Through the session, try alternating between holding your baby very close, with lots of reassuring skin-to-skin contact, then at arm’s length so they can move freely and feel a bit more independent.
This is arguably the most important step! Baby swimming is a relaxing and enjoyable activity, perfectly designed to enhance the parent/child bond. The emphasis should always be on you feeling like you’re evolving at your child’s own pace, and on both of you having fun.
Water Babies classes are available in the UK, as well as Republic of Ireland, Canada, The Netherlands and New Zealand. To find your nearest class, visit www.waterbabies.co.uk. To keep up to date on the latest baby swimming news, check out www.facebook.com/waterbabiesuk and www.twitter.com/waterbabies.