Barbeques, birthday parties, fun in the sun. So many memories to be made in summer with your baby! Many of these memories will involve pools and water play. So where do you start with teaching your baby how to swim?
Why Swim With Your Baby?
Swimming is an important skill to have for both safety and fun! What better time to teach both than when you have a baby. If swim lessons are not in the equation right now here are some things that you can do to teach your baby the skills of swimming.
First of all, you want your baby to be comfortable with water. This can start at home at bath time! Have your baby play. Splash around in the water. Use toys to squirt water on your babies shoulders and head, etc. Start showing your baby how to blow bubbles, even if they aren't able to do it yet. Fill the bath just enough so the baby can lay on their back allowing them to get the sensation of laying in water as well as getting their ears wet. This can be an odd feeling for children and the more they are exposed to it the less likely it will bother them later on.
Getting In The Pool
When you have your baby outside the bath and in a larger pool setting, start to hold them on your arms. Allowing your baby to lay on their bellies. The comfort of a familiar face as you hold them horizontal in the water will allow your baby to relax, so lower yourself down to the surface of the water as you walk around and play with your baby. You can hold their legs and kick for them. Continue to blow bubbles as you play and keep your baby's chin close to the water. In a matter of no time your baby will be playing along and possibly putting their mouth in the water, even if it is not yet blowing bubbles. This is a great start to swimming! If your baby is feeling comfortable you may want to roll them over and allow their head to rest on your shoulder. As you practice this, your baby relaxes and "floats" as you move along in the pool.Again, you may kick their legs for them. If they are still uncomfortable with their ears in the water start by slightly standing so your shoulder is above the water level. As they get comfortable, start to lower down. Allow your baby's ears to get closer, and eventually their ears will go under the water. This may take time. Again, upside down and ears under may be a strange sensation.
There have been many conversations about babies going under the water and the idea of swallowing water. What you can do is limit the amount of “dunks” per pool visit. Of course, you should do this only if you are comfortable. The best way to help your baby close their mouth is simply by giving them the same countdown each time so they can begin to prepare. They will become familiar with this repetition and begin to anticipate the dunk. As your baby's mouth is about to go under, blow a big breath of your air into their mouth and nose. Most babies' reactions are to hold their breath, even if their mouth stays open. Some babies cry, others cough, and some laugh and smile. Don’t get discouraged. Continue to play and make them comfortable. Comfort in the water is the most important skill swimming babies need to learn!
It may seem silly to teach baby safety in the pool. But simple things will help them feel safe and comfortable, even as they grow. For instance, always bring your baby back to the stairs or the wall so it becomes second nature to make their way back to a safe spot. Use “monkeys” or “crabs” for a baby to build strength. You take their hands and walk along the walls of the pool. This way they can always get back to a shallow area, stairs or ladder. Elbow, elbow, knee, knee. Follow these steps to guide the baby out of the pool. As they gain strength, they will begin to pull themselves out of the pool. You will be surprised how strong your baby is! You can do the reverse to show them a safe way to enter the pool as well. Flipping onto their bellies and lowering them down into the pool feet first while holding onto the wall.
Remember, doing the motions for a baby allows them to become inherent. So as they begin to feel comfortable move their arms in a swimming motion, kick their feet for them on both bellies and backs. This will seem like play now but when the time comes, their natural motions will be the ones you were doing for them.
Remember, comfort is the most important thing to teach your baby. You want to instill calm and fun in the water. You also want to lay down the foundational moves and safety for your baby. Do what makes you comfortable with your baby in the water, but don’t be scared, your baby wants to learn and have fun with you!
Jaclyn Branch’s bio:
Swim Instructor in San Diego, CA
I am Jaclyn and I have taught swimming for 10 years. I was also a lifeguard. I have taught all ages, from infants to adults and taught all different levels, from beginners to competitive swimmers and all of the in between. Other than in the pool, I am a school teacher. I have also been a tutor and sub. I went to Sacred Heart University in CT and swam there. I love swimming because it was a huge part of my life and I love to teach it because I get to share what I have practice for so long!