Parents are often drawn to the obvious benefits that swimming lessons can offer their children, but many feel unsure at what age they should start. It is natural to feel some caution. Parents might question how children learn to swim when they are so young and what type of activities they will be involved in during infant swimming lessons. Relating swimming to the process a child goes through when learning to walk can help us to understand. Walking is a complex, physically demanding activity that requires intense coordination and balance, yet children learn how to walk at a relatively young age and, for the most part, teach themselves. Learning to swim happens in very much the same manner with parents and teacher there to assist at each step of the way.
It’s important to remember that before birth, infants were immersed in a fluid environment inside their mother’s womb. So, we aren’t really talking about when to “introduce” a child to the water, but rather, when to “reintroduce” them to the element that they called home for close to nine months.
So, when should ‘formal’ baby swimming lessons start? There are a few different guidelines and opinions. However, the recommendation of the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association is that infants can start a formal program of swim lessons at 6 months of age. Some of the reasons for waiting until 6 months are to allow a medical history to develop, allow the infant’s immune system to strengthen and allow bonding to occur with the primary caretaker. After 6 months, infant swimming lessons in a gentle and developmentally appropriate program can, and should, be started right away.
Once a lesson program has begun, how long should it go on? Swimming lessons are not an event, but rather a long-term process. Attending lessons as a regular part of a child’s weekly routine through their infant, preschool and early school years is a great plan to ensure proper development of their aquatic skills.
Starting early and continuing long term will allow your child to fully experience all that the water and the swimming lesson experience has to offer.
In their first year your baby develops at an amazing rate! They learn to discover their body, to use their eyes and ears, to use their fingers for grabbing and their mouth for touching. They smile, laugh, babble, start sitting, crawling and before you know it, it’s their first birthday and they take their first steps and call you mama or dada. You spend a lot of time helping your baby learn new things by talking to your baby, cuddling them, caring for them, playing with them and loving them like only a parent can. In these early stages they learn the foundation of talking and walking. But also for swimming! They may be a bit apprehensive at first but your baby loves to splash! They enjoy watching other children and parents and learn so much from being around their peers. As an added benefit they really enjoy that skin on skin contact you have with them in the water.
Before you start in our Infant Aquatics program
In our classes you will learn how to best hold your baby in the water. We want you and your baby to feel safe and comfortable. We will teach you how to get your baby to be ready to go underwater on their own condition. We will never force you to do something you, or your baby, are not ready to do just yet. We will work on their muscle development by encouraging them to “crawl” in the water and by doing plenty of rolling from their tummy to their back and on their tummy again. We also work on their fine motor skills by giving the babies different toys and textures every week to grasp, feel and bite. A study done by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows that Teaching babies to swim turns out to be more than just fun. Baby swimmers have better balance and are also better at grasping at things than non-swimmers. This difference persists even when children are five years old, when babies who have been taught to swim still outperform their peers!
Moving up to the next level in our Parent Baby classes:
Once your baby turns 1, he or she will move into our Parent Baby 2 class. Through manipulation on their arms and legs we will extend their swimming skills. We work on rolling over from back to front without help and work on swimming a short distance from your teacher back to you and our balance in the water. A Safe Entry becomes a standard part of their class, as is climbing out and floating on our back. After their 2nd birthday, he or she will move to our Parent Baby 3 class where we work on swimming even further (5m), floating without help, refining of their motor skills, learning to stand back up in the shallow end of a pool and how to use a noodle and kickboard to help us swim. We work on your baby finding solutions to aquatic challenges like learning to wait for permission to get in, to look before they swim away and different ways of getting back to safety after an accidental fall in the water. In this class we also work on the transition to our Learn to Swim program by using the same names and keywords for the skills we work on. Once your baby is 3 years old, he or she is old enough for our Learn to Swim program and you can support and encourage your child from the side of the pool. If your baby is not tall enough or still prefers to swim with you, you and your baby can stay in your Parent Baby 3 class until your baby is ready to move up.
Tips for your first time:
- Arrive on time. This way your baby has a chance to get used to the pool environment. You can talk about the things you see and hear. Keep in mind that the sound works different in our building than in your bathroom or an outside pool.
- Bring bathers and towels for you both, a t-shirt for you to wear during the class and a dry nappy and a treat for your baby for afterwards
- Bring a swimming nappy for in the pool
- Our desk staff will show you where to get changed and will tell you the name of your teacher
- Your teacher will be in the water to help you and your baby settle in, if your baby cannot sit unsupported, your teacher will help you get your baby in the water.
- If your baby cries the first time, don’t worry about upsetting the other babies or parents. They have all been there. Just concentrate on your baby, not on the rest. We want that first time to be as pleasant as possible for you both.
- After swimming make sure you give your baby a quick rinse under the shower. This will wash of the chlorine. That way you can stick to your normal bath time routine for your baby at home
Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and siblings are always welcome to come and watch and take pictures from pool deck. We do ask you to be mindful of taking pictures of other children, especially if you plan to share the images on social media. For the benefit of your baby we recommend having the same carer(s) in the water every class. If you want to let another relative experience the joy of swimming with your baby, we welcome them to join you and baby or will give them extra help if they come in without you..
We look forward to sharing this amazing journey with you and your baby. Should you have any questions, our desk staff and your Parent Baby teacher are happy to answer them all.