I think swimming is an important life skill to give children. Even if they don’t end up taking swimming up as a hobby when they are older, learning to swim even just a few meters could save your child’s life.
I have made sure all my children have been in the water from just a few weeks old and we have made sure that lots of family time has been centred around water, to increase their confidence and awareness.
All children are different and they all respond differently to the water. There will always be those newborns who are so relaxed they fall asleep and those who seem terrified and scream the place down. Most babies tend to be somewhere in between, but there are a few things you can do to keep things calm and make it a positive experience:
- Spend time on the side of the pool so baby gets used to the noises, colours, splashing and so on
- Check the pool temperature, it should be at least 30 degrees, and maybe pop your baby in a wetsuit
- Baby will need to wear a suitable nappy – a disposable nappy and a re-usable swim nappy
- Stay calm and positive when you’re in the pool
- Make it fun with lots of eye contact, smiles and talk to your baby.
- Combine holding them close for skin-to- skin contact, and at arms’ length so they can move freely
- Swimming can be tiring for little ones, so 20 minutes is probably long enough in the water – they may well sleep afterwards
- Have a nice warm towel ready
- Be prepared – they’re likely to be hungry afterwards!
- Consider joining a baby swim class – it’s a great way to get your baby water-confident and for you to develop a range of skills you can use to develop their swimming in the future
The other thing that really helps babies enjoy swimming is how you manage bath times at home. Developing a good routine and keeping bath times calm and consistent can help. Although if you have several children bath times may be a little more busy!
Get older children to help bath the smaller ones and build confidence and bonding in the water for all the family.
Having fun in the water starts with bath time – there’s nothing like a good splash, lots of bubbles and laughter. As your baby gets more confident you can gently splash water over their body, start pouring water over them and lie them down on their back, moving them gently through the water.