Throughout all of my time looking at the vast array of activities that I could participate in with my baby, swimming really stood out. Yet, swimming was one of the most daunting. Swimming meant being in water, not on dry land, not on a flat dry surface.
Swimming is a bonding activity you can do that allows skin to skin contact. The holy grail of early years parenting. As it is a water activity it allows your child the freedom of movement and due to it being a weight bearing exercise there is no additional strain on their little body’s. No guilt that you are pushing them too far, too quick. They will do what they can using their own body as an aid. This is the incentive for a parent if they have anxiety prior to entering the water themselves.
Coordination is a skill that is developed early on within the lessons, they have toys to play with, reach for, hand back and pass on. Playing games in the water can be lots of fun! Swimming strengthens their body and when they are very young they tend to be stationary for long periods of time during the day, the swimming lesson can allow them to move quite freely.
Taking a baby swimming allows you and the baby to build up a strong and immense bond during this intimate activity. Trust builds up between you and the baby as there is 100% attention required always and there are no distractions. Modern daily demands can be put aside for the lesson as no mobile phones are allowed! Both you and your child are included in the lessons, you are a team mastering the skills set out by the Instructors.
Taking your precious bundle in their first lesson environment can be intimidating however a good swim school will put you at ease. It felt to me that my hand was literally being held every step of the way. No question was too big or too small. Confidence grows week by week as Instructors give you praise and encouragement.
Be warned you are likely to turn up half an hour early and with the worlds heaviest changing bag. That is to be expected, other parents give you a reassuring smile. Flashbacks to their similar experiences.
Early swimming with your child can help put your child at ease in the water, they are less likely to be apprehensive in later life. If they are familiar and comfortable to this environment so early on in their life it can only help to dispel fear later. For me it is not just about water safety within the water itself but how to behave on poolside, do not run, watch where you are going, be mindful of hazards are all things of vital importance.
I hear from other parents that holidays take on a slightly different tone, they can spend time with them in the water practising some of what they’ve learnt in the lesson. Being around the pool becomes a focus and can only enhance the relationship between you and your child.
As your little one grows the support network within the group of caregivers and children becomes apparent. The familiar smile, the knowing nod compliments the encouragement given in the lessons. Alongside this the children learn from very early on about taking turns, waiting for their go. This is reinforced through all their lessons and as they grow older. They also learn to interact with others and build friendship groups based on a shared interest.
Of course, all this additional exercise can only lead to something us mothers crave, improved sleep for baby – and hopefully us. Their little body’s work hard during a lesson as well as their brain. A post swim sleep is an added bonus!
Swimming is an activity of choice born out of the need to feel like you are participating in something “healthy” but which also gives them so much more. A life skill.