It’s highly important that children are introduced to swimming from a young age, not only is it a fun activity that will keep them fit and healthy it also ensures that they are safe around open bodies of water.
Research conducted by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) discovered that more than half of children aged between 7-11 years cannot swim 25 metres unaided. This could be due to fitness levels as child obesity rates continue to rise, or simply because they have not been taught how to swim correctly and for long periods of time.
Swimming is a skill that comes naturally to most humans, we float in water and our bodies react to being immersed in it with primitive movements to propel us along; introducing your child to swimming from as early as baby stages will ensure the basic skill of handling themselves in water becomes second nature.
Start off by placing your baby in the bath at home and get in with them, carefully pour a little water over their head and face so they get used to the sensation and move them around the bath in the water while they float on their back. Encourage them to splash and play with bath toys, all while praising them and smiling. If you’re happy your baby will usually feel the same way!
When the time comes to properly introduce your baby to swimming it’s important that you wait at least six weeks to reduce the risk of infection, although there’s no need to wait for immunisations before venturing to a pool. If you have had a caesarean however it is recommended that you wait a little longer.
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Seek out a warm pool, preferably one that is heated to 32°C and keep an eye on your baby while in the water. If they start to shiver or their hands, feet or lips look a little blue get out of the water and warm them up straight away.
Remember to pick up waterproof nappies and take along a warm bottle or snacks for after the swim. Towelling dressing gowns and overalls with hoods are great for when you get out of the pool, you can find some great designs here to wrap your little one up in after a dip. You should also ensure you wash the chlorine water off your baby immediately after getting out of the pool and rub in moisturising cream if your child suffers from dry skin or eczema.
You or your partner can take your baby to the pool in quieter periods to introduce them to swimming or you could join a baby swim class which as well as teaching your child to swim confidently will also develop their social and play skills with other children. You might also make some new friends yourself.
Baby swim classes will also help you take the next step to teaching your child to swim underwater and hold their breath. When you think about it, your baby just spent nine months in amniotic fluid in the womb, so being submerged in water should feel pretty natural.
Many baby swim classes teach underwater swimming because babies have a natural ability to understand that they must hold their breath underwater once their natural laryngeal reflex (gag reflex) is triggered when they are submerged. Underwater breathing teaches children how to control their breathing in the water and will make them better swimmers as they progress.
So now you understand the importance of encouraging your child to swim it’s time to don that bathing suit, get that waterproof nappy on and go for a dip!