Posted on 22nd Jun 2012 @ 18:40
Swimming is a sport that could save your child’s life. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, in 2009 more than 400 children in the UK died as a result of drowning. When young children or babies who can’t swim fall into water they don’t splash around on the surface until you hear them – they sink – quickly and quietly. Scary stuff - but the good news is that swimming is being recognised in schools as part of the National Curriculum and a vital life skill. Children are expected to be able to swim 25 metres by the end of infant school and schools have a duty to provide access to swimming lessons. The bad news is that this target is not yet being hit so most parents want to get their child confident in water before they reach school age.
I took my two children into the swimming pool before they were three months old, and we started baby swimming classes when they were six months. I now have one who at the age of 5 has progressed to swim all 4 strokes and trains with a swimming club. My 3 year old is not in the same league, but can swim 5 metres, float and tread water. He is happiest when jumping in and picking up toys from the bottom. Despite the differences in achievement, both of my children have always had loads of confidence in the water, probably because since babies they have always been in it.
There are more choices than ever to enable you to find a way of getting your baby or young child confident in water and swimming. It’s a worthwhile investment in time and money as it’s a skill that once learned, is never forgotten.
Teaching them yourself.
You don’t need any special skills to teach your children to be confident in water, though you do need to be confident yourself, as they will take their cues from you. If you can duck under the water and pop up laughing, they will see that as a fun game and will get used to having their head in and under the water (which a lot of older children struggle with). Don’t be afraid to gently submerge a baby for a second or two either, they have an automatic instinct to hold their breath in water, and will not try to breathe. By making trips to the pool lots of fun, babies will feel totally at home (after all they spend 9 months in water) and children should be able to learn a basic doggy paddle that will let them swim to the side if they get into trouble.
If you don’t have the confidence, time or patience to teach the basics – or if you want your children to progress further, then you will want to start lessons. There are many options available. In our childrens’ lessons, us parents always went into the pool with them, from babies until they were proficient swimmers. This meant that we could try lots of things – diving in deep water, swimming through hoops and lifesaving basics – that a more traditional class with the teacher responsible for several young children couldn’t do. That said, many of my friends hated the thought of having to get in the pool and preferred a more traditional approach.
A good place to start is to ask family and friends for any recommendations. If you belong to a gym, they will often have a programme of lessons for babies and children. Local pools will offer lessons too. They can often have long waiting lists so it’s worth getting signed up for. Independent swim schools and teachers will offer lessons using private pools and school pools out of school hours.
A good swim instructor or group should be happy to give advice and answer any questions. They should also be happy for you to go and observe a lesson, or let your child do a trial lesson to see how they get on.
Swimming lessons don’t have to break the bank! If you are starting early with a baby you will be in the water with them, so group size isn’t too much of an issue – but more of a concern in the changing rooms afterwards. With an older child, individual tuition isn’t always best as many children learn best by copying and learning from other children. However, if your child is nervous or shy, a large group may not provide the individual support they require to flourish.
As long as your child is having fun and making progress, they are well on their way to gaining a potentially lifesaving skill, whilst being happy and active too. What could be better?
Why swimming is so good for baby
In the first few years of a baby’s life, they experience a huge development as their brain grows much faster than in later years. Introducing babies to swimming isn’t just to teach them how to swim; it aids their development physically and emotionally.
Swimming builds babies muscle development which can aid early walking. It also improves their cardio-vascular system, co-ordination and motor skills.
Water is a natural environment for babies and they feel safe and secure in warm water. Babies already have confidence in water, it’s only as they grow up that they lose it. Babies are happy to swim below the water and be in water of any depth. By keeping confidence levels high you can avoid future traumatic experiences that some children go through when learning to swim, and turn happy confident babies into happy confident children.