Rob Cox, April 13, 2012
Teach your babies to swim!
2012 is the year of the new swimmer! If you have a young person in your house, or even in the house of a friend, relative or co-worker, teach them to swim!
What follows is some tips and hopefully some motivation to get in the water with your kids, and help them practice water skills.
Let's start with the question: Why teach your kids to swim? A valid question perhaps, here's the most common reasons:
- To protect them from drowning or near-drowning, and not just in swimming pools. Bathtubs and buckets for babies, and as they get older - Lakes, Rivers and Oceans.
- To develop the natural love of water, and the fun that water sports, fishing and boating can bring.
- For the fitness benefit; there's no better form of exercise.
- Family togetherness - swimming and water activities are best enjoyed with friends and family.
Teaching Babies to Swim:
Not sure if babies can actually swim a 50 meter backstroke without getting a 'DQ' (Disqualified) - but they love to kick and float and can actually motor themselves around the pool fairly well, all while holding their breath.
Babies love the water. Their first home was aquatic after all, and they have no natural fear of the water. They can become uncomfortable and fussy however, when cold water or other environmental factors irritate them.
At 6 months of age, most babies are ready to be introduced to the water. A 'mommy & me' type of swimming class can be a great option to acclimate baby to a swimming pool, and is a fun social class for dads and moms too. Early pool experiences will focus on comfort, and basic skills of breath holding and floating on their back.
If you have your own pool, why not organize your own 'Mommy & Me" class (don't forget to invite dads, too!) for some of the other local parents you see pushing a baby stroller in the neighborhood?
You don't need any special pool floatation devices for your babies, but if you like to spend more time floating with your baby in the pool, there are some baby pool floats that are safe and recommended. Our top baby pool floats are the baby tugboat and the baby spring float, both by Swimways.
No special gear is needed to help your baby enjoy the water, but here are some important safety tips:
- Keep your baby within arm's reach at all times, even if they are in a baby pool float.
- Don't allow your baby to submerge themselves for more than a few seconds.
- Don't allow your baby to swallow a lot of pool water.
- Teach them how to roll over and float on their back.
- Bathe baby beforehand, and use a swim diaper
- Take many breaks from the water, for rest, food, water or diaper check.
Teaching Toddlers to Swim:
Toddlers, or children of a walking age, usually 1-4 years old, are a whole 'nuther thing. More self-aware and active, toddlers can be a handful around the pool. They are much more likely than babies to drown in a pool, or other body of water - and in some parts of the U.S., drowning is the leading cause of death in this age group. Seems counter-intuitive, but let's get these kids into the swimming pool!
Toddlers can be taught specific swimming skills in the water, although their swimming style may look a little spastic. They can be taught to kick their legs and stroke with their hands. Some of the skills appropriate at this age include:
- Blowing bubbles by putting face into the water
- Jumping off the edge, into your waiting arms
- Kicking while holding onto the edge
- Treading water
- Pushing off the wall under water
There is no specific gear needed for Toddler swimmers, but if they're still in diapers, use a swim diaper. These are available at Target or Walmart. Water wings, aka Swimmies, are not recommended by most swimming instruction or pool safety experts.
Never let a toddler swimmer out of your sight, and keep them within arm's length. One product that can be great for toddler swimmers is the Puddle Jumper. This allows for freedom of movement and the solid foam core can't puncture like inflatable vests. Foam filled swimsuits, with foam panels sewn in, can also be useful at this age, as can these USCG approved foam swim vests, in 3 vibrant colors.
If you know of a young person that needs to know how to swim, take some time this year to get in the pool with them. Don't worry about a training regimen, just make it fun - and spend some quality time together - in the pool. Or lake, or river, or ocean!
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Thanks to Gaynor's Swim Tots program, Doncaster & Yorkshire, UK for the photos