Baby swimming lessons | Everything you need to know

Expert advice on introducing your little one to the water. By Libby Peacock

With summer and swimming season ahead, triathlete and swim coach Britt Hyland gives advice about introducing babies and tots to swimming and how to keep them safe.

At what age can my baby start swimming lessons?

“Babies can start swimming lessons as early as three months old,” says Britt. “Most swim schools prefer to start them from 10 to 12 months, but it all depends on the different methods of teaching. Baby swim classes are generally group classes with a parent or caregiver in the pool as well.”

Why you should start early

Children love water and the sooner they learn to appreciate it and understand its possible dangers, the better, says Britt. “The younger they are, the less resistant they are to learning to swim, making teaching them that much easier.”
Spend as much time as possible in the water with your little one, making the association with water fun. There’s no reason for a baby or toddler to be scared of water unless there is an underlying issue such as previous bad experience, a parent who is pushy or nervous, or water that’s too cold. Ear problems, teething and illness can also contribute to a tot being scared of the water, so make sure you eliminate these if you perceive a problem.

The benefits of swimming lessons for your baby

Baby swimming is a wonderful opportunity for you and your baby to bond. “Nothing comes close to being with your little one in the pool and seeing the joy on his face in lesson. It is, however, a commitment and if you are not happy to get into the water on a rainy day or can’t commit to at least one class per week, it may not be for you. Your happiness and commitment in the water will lead the way for your child,” says Britt.
The rewards for both parent and child are plentiful: the first time he puts his eyes under the water, jumps from the step, floats on his back and blows bubbles are all milestones in the journey.

Water safety tips

  • An adult who can swim must always be present or in the pool when your little one is in the water.
  • You can use armbands and floating devices in moderation, but not all the time as this can affect your child’s body position in the water.
  • Never leave your little one unattended in the pool, even if he is wearing armbands. Babies have been known to remove their own armbands.

Water games to play with your child

Britt has the following suggestions to help your little one get used to water:

  • From an early age, pour or trickle water over his head and wet his eyes with a small cup, bucket, wet face cloth or sponge.
  • Never wipe his eyes to dry them and teach him from an early age to blink when he has water in his eyes.
  • Blowing bubbles in the bath is fun. As he gets older, he can practice blowing through a straw. Blowing bubbles is essential for breathing during swimming.
  • Floating toys in the pool is a great way to get him to move his arms and legs to get the toy.
  • The ideal way to hold your baby in the pool is to hold him with your thumbs on his shoulder blades, ensuring that his chin is touching the water but making sure his mouth isn’t submerged so he doesn’t swallow water.
  • From an early age, get him to jump to you in the water from a step or the side of the pool. Make sure you always catch him as he lands in the water (and not in the air).

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