Swimming can be a wonderful parent-child bonding experience. My dad has always loved swimming, scuba diving, and water activities in general. He took me to the beach to swim for the first time when I was just a few months old. When I turned three, we become members of our local swimming pool club and I started taking lessons – first we went to the swimming and, from the outside, he asked me ‘do you like it? do you want to learn to swim?’ I can still feel the excitement. We kept going together for a couple of years or so. Years later, when I became part of the local swimming team, he’d wake up at 6 am to drive me to the swimming pool every morning. In summer, we’d go to pick mussels together (in allowed areas, of course). Like my father, I love the ocean and water activities. And I have the best memories of all that time we spend together.
I guess it’s no surprise that when my daughter was born, I immediately started looking into parent-child swimming lessons.
Although I consider myself a good swimmer, I thought before we’d go to the swimming pool on our own, we’d get started taking group lessons to build up our confidence and use that opportunity to socialize a bit. Keep reading to know more about why, when, and how to get started taking swimming lessons with your baby.
Why to take swimming lessons – They’re just babies!
- Start building water confidence early. The less you wait, the less likely to be scared of water they’ll be. We started when my baby was about 8 months old with a 2 month class in spring. In summer, we enjoyed going to the beach, but after that, we weren’t able to take any more swimming lessons for a while. When we resumed swimming activities, she had not only not forgotten about water, but was super excited and wanted to get in the swimming pool all by herself.
- Swimming improves coordination and balance. Most of the body is supported by water, so it’s easier to focus on coordination and balance.
- Swimming helps to build muscles. It makes you work and strength all of your muscles, which effectively helps to make them stronger.
- Swimming lessons are a unique social experience. I’d recommend it specially if your child is not going to day care or pre-school (or not yet), so they get some regular social interaction and also the chance to get started learning to function in groups.
- Reducing the risk of drowning. In children 1 to 4, taking lessons will help reduce the risk of drowning. When a parent is proactively involved in teaching their child to swim, they may be more conscious of drowning risks overall.Lessons give small children important life-saving skills and teach them respect for the water. Even the youngest babies can be taught important safety skills — like floating on their backs — that can save their lives.
But… when should I start taking swimming lessons with my baby
The recommend age to get started with swimming lessons is 6 months. The main reason being babies’ immune systems are delicate, and swimming pools may have lots of germs. If you’re looking into joining group lessons, most programs start at that age.
However, if you can’t wait, I’ve seen parents bring their 4 months old to the swimming pool when I was giving lessons to toddlers. Just start slow and don’t go over 20 min per session.
How to get started
- Water temperature. 82°-86°F (28°-30°C) is comfortable for recreational swimming for children. Babies are more comfortable when the water is on the warmer side of this temperature range.
- Swimwear. If not potty trained, don’t forget the swim diaper. If indoors and the temperature is warm enough, a reusable swim diaper should be enough. If outdoors, a swim shirt is always good as an extra protection for the sun. One thing to take into account for swim shirts and one pieces, is to make sure they are the right size. If they’re too small, it’d be difficult to put them on. Whereas if they are too big, they will let too much air in and it’s easy to get cold in them.
- Group lessons. I have already talked about group lessons and why they can be a good starting point, in my experience, a really good way to get started with swimming for babies.
- Floaties yay or nay? As a toddler, my kid hates arm floaties; as a baby, she liked playing with them and they helped her feel more comfortable in the water.
- Toys. Toys in the water are fun! Rubber duckies and foam animals in the bath tub, beach toys, floaties,… fun, fun, fun!
- Music. Why not? In group lessons for babies there’s always lots of songs and activities with music. At home, you can also play relaxing songs during bath time.