By Lisa Cook, Founder of KidSwim
Parent-child swimclasses are incredibly popular and with good reason; they are economical, fun, social, and a great new experience for your baby. Warm water feels so soothing and calming to them, even babies that tend to be more tentative almost always relax and warm to the idea of being in the water. Most babies who nap after swim class tend to take marathon naps and have no trouble falling asleep. They are getting stimulation, exercise, and quality time with mom or dad (or both!)
But what skills are they absorbing that have any real lasting impact? Believe it or not, the long-term positive effects are huge! First of all, babies who begin swim class between 6-9 months of age and maintain once a week exposure to the environment throughout the months up until age two, will almost always be swimming by age two without ANY fear, resistance, anxiety, or tears! It’s amazing how easily babies transition into swimming toddlers when it’s an environment with which they are comfortable and know well. The best part of it is, you really don’t even need the class more than once a week over an extended period of time. At Kidswim we recommend having swim class for as many months as you are able and minimizing the winter months when they won’t swim (of course if you have access to an indoor pool, you can go year round). Nine months on and three months off is ideal.
While initially it seems that the skills are so rudimentary that you might wonder how this translates into real swimming, just remember that the skills develop as your child develops. If your child has a fairly consistent parent-child swim experience then you can look forward to the following at two years old:
- Being able to swim short distances with face in the water, both holding breath and blowing bubbles while kicking.
- Being able to jump into the pool and swim to you.
- Being able to swim to the wall, reach, and catch the wall and climb out unassisted (in most pools, except ones with particularly high side walls).
- Being able to float both on their front and back - either completely unassisted or with very little assistance.
- Being able to dive down with some assistance to the bottom of the shallow-end side of the pool to retrieve a toy.
- In some cases, children around age two can actually begin to perform basic stroke work - big arms, and beginning breaststroke.
And the biggest benefit is simply that around age two your child will avoid the period of fear and resistance that can happen when introduced to a new environment and that expedites the process to get to the next stage. A child that begins swimming at age two and a half or three without prior experience takes, on average, two summers to learn to swim effectively, while a child who has taken parent-child swim classes only requires one summer to learn to swim and then going forward, builds up technique, endurance and confidence towards water safety. It’s truly a win-win all the way around. Enjoy!
Lisa Cook, mother of two, is a water safety expert with 30 years experience in aquatics. She empowers parents with concrete facts about what water safety really means and how to achieve it. Lisa believes a positive swim experience is a family affair. To book a free, no-obligation seminar at your home, parenting group, or your child's school, call 1-877-579-SWIM (7946).