When should babies start swimming lessons?

Got a little water baby that giggles every bathtime? Lots of parents wonder when to take their tots to the pool, so we had a chat to Kingswim area manager Anne Brown who told us the best age for babies to start swimming lessons.

When will you start swimming lessons? We took our bub to the pool this week and he loved it! Got me thinking about starting him early if I can find classes close by.

Jenny, Mums Grapevine Baby Group Member

While medical experts say there’s no need to wait until bub has had their six-week immunisations, new mums are advised not to swim for six weeks after birth (that’s both vaginal and c-section births). And because you’re going to be the one holding onto your little tyke, it’s best to wait until at least six weeks post-birth.

A safe introduction to water

 

“At Kingswim, we encourage parents to introduce their children to the water early and offer Baby Play from 12 weeks old. Baby Play is all about introducing your little person to the nice, warm water in a relaxed and supportive environment.

“Baby Play offers your little one a heightened, multi-sensory stimulation, involving touch, hearing, sight, taste and smell. We aim to strengthen babies and consolidate their early swimming reflexes into conscious movements of legs and arms in the water.”

Benefits of early swimming lessons

When should babies start swimming lessons? | Mum's Grapevine

Anne explains that the benefits of getting babes into the water early are huge.

“We see day-in-day-out the improvements in ability and confidence with the kids who’ve been swimming with us since a young age. Additionally, research from Griffith University has shown that children who participate in early-years swimming achieve many milestones quicker than other kids – across physical, cognitive and language development.

“Where there is a high-quality swimming school, children can learn more literacy and numeracy skills, can gain wonderful social skills and it can help in the school transition process. Learning to swim offers much more than water safety and swim skills.

“When bub is really little (12 weeks to 6 months) the focus is on familiarisation and getting both you and bub comfortable in the water. Heading to the pool yourself may be ok, however for many parents taking their baby to the pool for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. This is where it’s best to visit a swimming school, to be surrounded by teaching and water safety experts and begin consolidating bub’s natural reflexes into conscious and controlled movements.

If my baby hates the bath, will they hate swimming?

Unhappy baby in bath

“Not necessarily, being in the pool allows babies to exercise more muscles in the weightless water environment, as they are not restricted by their capacity to sit or stand up. Zero gravity will allow freedoms that do not exist on dry land and you may find bub loves the ability to kick their arms and legs around freely.

“If your baby is reluctant in the water, we’re here to help with experts on hand to guide you through and tips for making Baby Play a relaxed swim for both parent and baby. Additionally, it’s much easier to overcome these fears when children are younger. We see the nervousness of the water most commonly in pre-school aged children who are starting lessons for the first time. Getting your child comfortable in the water early will ensure they
enjoy their lessons and progress quickly.

“Parents can also help reduce fear of the water by:

  • Recognising the fear but projecting calm and confidence.
  • Never force a child to do something that will panic them, instead use some encouraging persuasion to build trust and reassurance.
  • Shift the focus by asking questions or encouraging them to use their imagination to create a comfortable space. ‘Do you like Peppa Pig? Did you know Peppa Pig swims here too?’
  • Provide an opportunity for a safe experience. Sit on the side and encourage feeling the water with feet or hands.
  • Help the child to know what to expect. Arrive to your swimming lessons a little earlier to watch other swimmers in the pool and feel more comfortable in the new environment.
  • Use fear reducing phrases like ‘you can do this’ ‘it will be Ok’ ‘look what I can do”
    ‘this is fun’ ‘let’s have a try.’

“The number one rule is slow and steady. Remember, all those little steps you take along the way will result in big steps for their swimming future.”

Read next …

Want to feel a little more prepared for swimming and water fun? These next few articles are packed with handy information: