BABY swimming has many benefits besides teaching your child not to fear water.
By teaching babies to swim, you also introduce movement and develop their skills. Each time they go through the water exercises, babies are trained to hold their breath, grasp and kick – all of which will help them learn to swim.
“All babies are comfortable in the water but not all are natural swimmers. All babies can be taught to swim although the development of their skills will vary and some might take a longer time to learn to swim,” says Bryan Yap, a swim educator at Finns Boutique Swim Centre. He has been teaching baby swimming for the past ten years.
According to him, swimming at a young age stimulates the muscles and improves movement.
What are some of the benefits?
- Baby swimming introduces movement and motor skills at an early age.
- According to researchers from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research in Australia, children who learn swimming at a young age reach developmental milestones earlier than their peers (click here for more).
- A swimming programme also teaches parenting skills – what to expect from the child and the development stages.
- It builds confidence in first-time parents when handling babies, especially in the water.
- It's also good for bonding because of the time spent with the child.
- Swimming also provides a lot of opportunity for skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the parent which is also good for bonding.
- As the child grows up, they will also be taught safety tips in the swimming class. This is a great way to prevent accidents in the water as they are taught how to fall into the water without getting hurt and not to panic.
Parents can start preparing their babies from as early as three months by allowing them to play in the water at bath time.
As for joining a baby swimming class, it is preferable to start at six months because of the immunisations they need to get within the first few months.
"We start them at six months because it's a public pool and that means there might be germs and bacteria in there. We want the parents to be assured of the child's immune system before sending them for swimming classes."
"The best scenario is to start them at three months at home in the bath or in a tub just for the child to play in."
"If at six months, the parents are not confident because the child is still in the midst of getting all their jabs, then they can still expose the child to water at home. Use bath time to let the child have fun in the bathroom with warm water,” says Bryan.
What typically happens at a baby swimming class is that the parents get guidance from the teachers on how to hold their child and what to do to teach their child to swim.
“We teach the parents and the parents develop the skills in their children. The development is through the child's ability and what they can do at their age."
“When we teach the parents, we give them the information on what the child can do at this stage and what they will be able to do when they progress to the next level."
“The parents need to hold the child. There is a lot of submerging the ears underwater, pouring water on the child, getting the face wet and using their reflexes to manipulate their movement underwater and hold their breath."
"Babies have the natural reflexes of always kicking, and that kicking is something they can do in the water,” explains Bryan.
For babies to learn swimming, it is important to have:
- The right pool – it should be safe and clean. If it is a public pool, the water should be tested regularly for its chemical content to ensure it is safe.
- The temperature of the water should be suitable for the baby. It shouldn't be too warm nor too cold.
- There should be no wind as this can make the environment too cold for baby.
- Distractions should be minimised (this includes having the optimal temperature, climate and environment).
- The swimsuit should be comfortable and suitable and the baby should wear a swim diaper. The right suit will minimise the distractions like cold water and UV rays.
- The baby should not be ill.
- The parents should always be in the water with baby and at arm's length even if the child is using a flotation device.
Bryan says it is best to teach babies to swim from as young as possible.
However, it is not as simple as putting your child in the water and expecting them to know how to swim.
It's also not safe to watch videos on the Internet and think you can teach your baby to swim.
Teaching your baby to swim is something best left in the hands of the professionals because one wrong move may traumatise your baby who may fear the water after that.
If you are not careful, it can also lead to drowning.
“Parents should get the right professional help rather than just watching a video on the Internet and thinking they can teach their child to swim on their own."
"They should get the right teacher with the right qualifications and the right education. Some teachers are not qualified at all. Some are qualified but have not updated their licence."
"Teaching baby swimming includes knowledge of baby development and the psychological effects on the child. If the teacher doesn't understand that, it will just be a play session."
"It's important for the teacher to know and for the parents to understand why they are doing certain exercises,” says Bryan.