by Rob Cox, August 13, 2011
Momma, Don't let your Babies grow-up to be Non-Swimmers!
Nothing is quite as special as Mom and Baby in the pool, enjoying the water. Babies are as natural in the water as ducks, and to maximize their natural love of the water, should be introduced to swimming pools as early as 6 months of age.
Even if the parents are not swimmers, time spent in the shallow end will bring the two closer together, and reduce the fear in the water (for the adult). Babies have no natural fear of the water, it was their home for 9 months, after all.
Swimming pools are harder to come by these days unfortunately. Only 3% of the U.S. has a backyard pool, and many public pools are closed this year, due to budgeting shortfalls. Fort Worth, Texas for example has closed all 9 of their public pools, and it's residents have to travel all the way to Arlington to find a public pool.
When my boy Cory was a toddler, I was running pool service routes, and had quite a few pools to choose from. We usually ended up at "Mrs. Caputo's pool". Heated and large, Cory and I would swim all afternoon, and as he got older, I could clean the pool while he splashed around. When my younger boy Daniel came around, I no longer had my route, and although I'm sure I could call on Mrs. Caputo, we instead went to Chinquapin Rec Center pool. And I was NOT the only Dad in the Mommy & Me swimming class!
For most parents, however - finding a convenient pool can be difficult, especially year around. YMCA pools are a frequent alternative, and some hotel pools will sell a daily or monthly membership to their underused swimming pools. Swimming pools are a far safer and cleaner place to swim than your local watering hole, river or lake - however, if that's what is available to you, by all means - get in the water and teach your babies to swim!
Another option could be a friend or relative. Most pool owners are happy to share their backyard haven to guests and especially babies or toddlers. Perhaps you can work it off in trade, agreeing to clean the pool before or after your swim.
With babies and toddlers, learning to swim is not a 3 week course. First comes acclimation and enjoyment. Safety and Security for the child (and parent). After that, specific skills of floating, kicking and jumping will get you closer to actually learning to swim.
A word on child swim aids. Water wings, the inflatable arm bands, are considererd sub-optimal for teaching kids to swim nowadays, as they don't allow for full arm movement, and could become punctured or lose air. Better to use the USCG approved puddle jumper, or for older kids a swimsuit with foam pads sewn-in to the fabric gives kids and parents a lot of security.
For baby pool floats, our best selling item is the Baby Tugboat, followed by the Baby Spring Float. Also necessary in public pools is a swim diaper. Not sure how effective these are, but nontheless are required gear for today's swimming baby, (and for some swimming geriatrics, too!).
Don't wait too late to start getting your kids in the water. It may be inconvenient, cold and costly, but worth it all ~ bringing your child a safe enjoyment of water his or her whole life. It's also a good way to spend quality time with your kids. For more info on how to teach young kids to swim, see our recent blog post on the topic. Here's a great youtube video below - on babies in the pool!