Babies And Swimming

swimming infantSwimming with an infant is one of the most rewarding and enlightening experiences, and besides promoting bonding between parents and child, swimming has been found to have numerous advantages for the developing child. 

Regular professional swimming lessons have been shown to improve the overall intelligence and alertness of the child, and this leads to enhanced concentration, and an improvement in the emotional and physical development. With regular swimming lessons, the child’s motor skills will be enhanced due to the repetitive techniques that are taught and practiced during swimming lessons.


At what age should babies start swimming lessons?

Babies can start swimming lessons from as young as 6 months old (there are those who encourage swimming virtually from birth). Almost instinctively these tiny babies understand how to hold their breath when they are dipped underwater. Regular lessons will soon have the infant swimming underwater for 5 seconds, and by 12 months old (or younger) the child will know to instinctively reach for the side of the pool. Most babies who attend swimming lessons from a younger age will feel confident enough to perform a sitting jump from the edge of the pool into their parent’s arms. However, parents who sign up their babies for swimming lessons should not expect their babies to be doing the breaststroke or crawl at the age of 1 (advanced swimming is generally taught from the age of four). Swimming lessons for infants should be seen as a means to allow the baby to benefit from the time spent in the water and to accomplish breath control.

Professional baby swimming coaches have found that there is a window of opportunity which exists between the ages of 6 months until 18 months. This age group has been shown to adjust better to the watery environment and they are able to master breath control quicker. In the same vein, children of any age are fast learners and if the right instructor or coach is found, the child’s confidence will be improved and they will quickly catch up on lost time.


Will teaching a baby to swim help prevent drowning accidents?

Teaching a baby to swim is a wise choice but swimming lessons should not be seen as a means to make the baby safe from drowning, and parents must be water-wise and vigilant around water – at all times. Even the most experienced swimmer is not immune to drowning and this means that children and adults need to practice water safety when swimming. An infant who is able to hold their breath underwater is not drown-proof. However, during the swimming lessons, babies will be taught valuable water safety techniques which are potentially lifesaving.

The water safety skills taught during swimming lessons include the water turn around technique. This method has proven to be an effective way for toddlers and infants in self-rescue as they are taught that as soon as they get into a pool to turn around and cling to the side. Above all, babies are taught not to panic and because the lessons are given with a parent or parents present, the babies will learn to relax and enjoy the water.

The roll over – this is another valuable and practical self-rescuing technique. A professional swimming instructor will determine at what stage this technique should be taught. If taught too early or taught to an unwilling infant, it could have a negative impact on the child’s ability to learn and trust. The aim of swimming lessons is not to provide parents with peace of mind that their toddlers or babies are drown-proof, but the objective of swimming lessons is to boost a child’s confidence and to help them feel safe and secure in the water and above all – to enjoy the time spent with mom and dad in the pool.

As children progress, they will be able to understand the dangers of water better and at the same time, they will know what actions to carry out for self-rescue, such as rolling on their back, clinging to the side, etc. These lessons are not specifically taught to babies, but the initially lessons are given to help infants become accustomed to the water.


Swimming is not for all babies

Not all babies will take instantly to water and there are babies who will protest vehemently to being submerged in water or getting their faces wet! Parents who are eager to begin swimming lessons may opt to give-up but an infant who has an aversion to water simply requires the reassurance and perseverance of their parents. After a few trying lessons, a baby will eventually relax and learn to enjoy the water. To avoid future problems with waters, over-eager parents should never submerge their babies, until they are completely confident and relaxed. If a baby is not ready – they will have a deep-seated fear of water that could last a lifetime!  The process ought to be seen as gradual and the objective is to enjoy the uninterrupted time together and get to know each other in a peaceful, one-on-one setting.


Arm-bands and other flotation devices – good or bad?

Baby swimming coaches are divided when it comes to using flotation devices, like armbands, or lifejacket vests. Those who are against the devices believe that they give the babies a false sense of security and that a baby should be taught breath control without the aid of such devices. In the same vein others feel that these flotation devices help to develop the baby’s confidence in the water. Parents, who are trying to teach their babies to swim at home, should figure out what is best for them and for baby, before ruling out flotation devices completely.


Signing up for swimming classes, what should you look for?

Considering the fact that incorrect teaching can have a detrimental effect on the baby’s love of water and swimming, parents must look for a swimming class that is a perfect fit for both themselves and their baby. Besides the techniques used to teach baby to swim, other factors that should play a role in the decision include,

  • Water temperature. Make sure the pool temperature is comfortable (most parents feel happier with an indoor, heated swimming pool). A pool with a cold temperature will be off-putting for the tiny tot (not to mention the parents).
  • Before signing up for lessons, ensure that the pool is clean and that it is well looked after. If the water looks dirty and it is apparent that no chemicals have been added to the water – be weary. Pools are breeding grounds for germs and a pool that is under-dosed can be bad for baby.
  • Is the teacher or instructor properly qualified?
  • Size of class – look for a class that is small and intimate as this will allow the teacher to spend more time teaching and assisting you and your baby.

Depending on the age of the baby, lessons should only be for 15 minutes, these can increase with age. The duration of the lesson should also be dictated by the baby – if they are happy in the pool, continue but if they are showing signs of tiredness or hunger – be sure to see to their basic needs first.


South African swimming program

Aquatots ® is one of the best known infant swimming programs in the country and they have been teaching swimming skills to infants for fifty years. Aquatots has franchises located across the country and can be contacted on the telephone number 0861-10-21-73, or email:


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