• Babies less than one year old accept the water more readily than older children.
  • Fear of water is acquired as children grow older; the longer a child is kept away from water, the more likely the child will develop aqua-phobia.
  • Babies can exercise more muscles in the water, they are less restricted by gravity and their ability to sit or stand. This increased strength often manifests itself in early acquisition of physical skills like walking.
  • Swimming improves a baby’s cardiovascular fitness. Although babies are limited in how much they can improve their endurance, swimming does have a beneficial effect.
  • Early mastery of water movements gives children a head start in learning basic swimming skills.
  • Water helps improve co-ordination and balance by forcing babies to move bi-laterally to maintain their equilibrium.
  • Warm water combined with gentle exercise relaxes and stimulates babies’ appetites. They usually eat and sleep better on swimming days.
  • Doctors often recommend swimming as the exercise of choice for asthmatics. For many asthmatics, exercise produces bronchial hyperactivity. Swimming causes less wheezing than other forms of exercise. Possibly because the warm moist air around pools is less irritating to the lungs.
  • Babies flourish in the focused attention their parents lavish on them during swimming lessons.
  • As babies learn how to manoeuvre in the water on their own, independence and self-confidence blossoms.
  • Swimming provides babies with lots of skin-to-skin contact with their parents that psychologists say may deepen the bond between parent and child.
  • Learning to swim is not only a fun, healthy activity but a safety measure as well.

Be sensitive to your baby’s crying

Crying is the way your baby communicates with you. There are many reasons why your baby cries, but being in the water is one of the least likely. If you get out of the pool every time your baby cries, the child will begin to associate being in the water with crying. Then, whenever you get in the pool your baby will be conditioned to respond by crying. If your baby does cry when you are in the water, instead of getting out, try to determine the cause of your baby’s tears. The Crying Troubleshooter, below, will help you determine the reason for your baby’s crying and how to stop it.

Crying Troubleshooters

Water can be dangerous. It should be treated with respect and understanding. Children who know how to swim well not only can save themselves when in water, but are far more equipped to recognise the inherent dangers of water.
Swimming exercises and strengthens a child’s muscular and cardiovascular systems. The unique environment allows the body to move in ways it cannot on land, leading to better co-ordination and fine motor skills.Signs of improved cognitive development have been noticed by several researchers and a world first study is currently under-way at Griffith University. The research is to verify what we have believed for years, that 5 year olds who have swum for most of their lives are better prepared to leave mum and dad and begin their schooling.
There is no doubt that a child’s confidence improves when they learn how to swim. In the right environment parents and teachers can create the sense of achievement that comes with performing skills that were once impossible to them. As children enter school, swimming is one of the ways kids begin to compare themselves to others.
There is strong evidence that physical touching, hugging and playing is critical in a child’s cognitive development. Swimming is a great way for mums and dad’s to spend quality time in a unique learning environment. Many of our swimming parents comment that swimming is one way they got to know, understand and grow with their child.
Fitness and health trainers agree that swimming is a wonderful activity for all ages. The controlled breathing needed to swim is good for the respiratory system. Swimming uses different muscles because of the reduced gravity acting on the body. Exercising in water is also low impact, meaning that people with injuries or the elderly can exercise without the pain that comes with running or going to the gym.
Being able to swim allows everyone to participate in activities with each other. It starts early with simply being able to go to the beach, or family BBQ as a baby or toddler. In the schooling years, swimming is necessary to compete in the school carnival, go to pool parties and get a spot on the swim team. Later on in life, many people join clubs or groups where swimming is helpful. And of course you want your kids to be able to swim with their children, your grandchildren!
Kids can loose focus really quickly. Think back to when you were on holidays or in the car with nothing to do. It drives kids crazy. In the pool, the most common sign a child is bored is misbehavior or attention seeking. The message is don’t make lessons too easy. Keep them moving, keep them engaged and challenged.
The opposite of being bored, is being overwhelmed. While keeping your lessons challenging, be careful not to be obsessed with time-frames or what other kids are doing. All kids are different. As long as your little champion is trying their best, results will come. We see far too many parents at swim lessons get frustrated when they don’t see immediate results. Children pick up on frustration just as well as fear. Its a confidence destroyer, and ultimately will slow their progress. Learning to swim is a journey with peaks and valleys, enjoy them all, it only happens once.
The amount of times we get ‘experts’ telling us that “the best way to learn how to swim is throw the kids in the pool and make’em fend for themselves, cause thats how I learnt ” is amazing. However what’s more amazing is the amount of parents we get in our swim schools who have never been in a pool since their childhood – because they were thrown in and could not fend for themselves. Nostalgic bravado about the good old days sounds great. We’d prefer that all kids learn, not just the ones who find swimming initially easy.
The classic example we use is blowing bubbles before learning breath control. Many parents tell kids to blow bubbles in the pool. It looks fun and engages the young swimmer and seems right – until they inhale water and get the fright of their lives. If you ever have trouble getting a young child to put their eyes in the water, chances are they are hesitant because last time they got a mouthful of water. This happens because they were not holding/controlling their breath. The message here is that because something seems right, doesn’t mean it it is.
Kids want to be fast swimmers. But technique is what creates speed, not thrashing around. So concentrate on building sound fundamentals before you worry about making them look like Ian Thorpe.
When children begin to see swimming as a competitive endeavour (earliest probably 6 years) we recommend you have them record their times and race the clock instead of just racing other kids. We feel racing other kids can sometimes deflate a child if they lose after lots of hard work. The fierce competitors will want to improve, all the others won’t want to swim any more. Aiming for personal best times gives each child a unique and personal goal that is always achievable.
Lots of parents ask us at the swim school what they should do because “Johnny doesn’t seem to want to train for 5 days a week, after school when all his mates are playing”. How dare he! Swimming is hard work. If a child is to become a great competitor while maintaining their sanity, the desire must burn from within. Sometimes a break is the best thing for worn out athletes.
Keeping your kids safe in and around water is of the greatest importance. There are a number of things you can do to help keep your children safe.
  • You must always supervise your kids in, around and near water (an older sibling in most cases is not a suitable option).
  • Maintain barriers between any bodies of water and your child.
  • Teach your kids to swim.
  • Set and enforce rules for going swimming, and playing near water.
  • Educate your children about safe water practices ie. how to enter the water safely.
A question we often hear is “when will my child be safe around water?” The answer is they will never be 100% safe. If parents are asking questions like this, they do not understand that no child can ever be completely safe around water. Instead we need to make kids aware of unsafe situations, and understand what is a dangerous situation.
Many parents have a misconception of the role of swim lessons. Swim lessons show children and adults the correct technique for learning. It is just as important children compliment lessons with play time and swimming in unusual situations so they find themselves in unexpected situations. The more random swimming activities a child does, the safer and more prepared they will be.
CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and is a life-saving procedure which is performed if a person stops breathing or if their heart ceases to beat. All parents should know basic CPR. This skill can save a life in many different day to day situations. In Australia there are lots of organizations which run CPR courses, so do some research.
Be extra careful when your little swimmer is enjoying a different pool, or even a new water location like the ocean or a river. Its easy for kids to become startled and panic, which can happen easily if they are not used to the bottom and edges.
If you are enrolled in lessons, ask your swim school provider if they do any safety awareness or activities. Aquatic Achievers has specific weeks devoted to safety several times a year, where we change the lesson structure and talk to the kids about safety issues.