Babies are born with a natural grasp reflex. They instinctively grasp and hold on tight to fingers, toys, clothing, and hair. In the swimming lesson we want to try to maintain the baby’s grasp reflex. In doing so, we build strength, independence and teach baby to support their own body weight. These gripping activities play an integral role in teaching children a respect for the water. Our aim is to teach children to pull up independently on an adults t-shirt, fingers or side of the pool, with the ultimate goal of having the child climb out of the pool. This is a skill which may one day save their life.
T-shirts are a great teaching aid. Here the baby can easily grip and support their body weight provided that the adult stays low in the water. This simply activity teaches children from a very early age to pull themselves out of the water to safety. Always remember to pay attention to your child and ensure they are not drinking the water.
Children can also be encouraged to grip and hold on tight to their parent’s fingers. Parents can help by clasping babies’ hands between their thumb and index finger. When parents feel the baby grip tight they can open the thumb and index finger. But be alert in case baby lets go and falls underwater. If you have not conditioned your child for submersion do not attempt this activity.
As children’s physical strength improves parents can encourage them to hold on to a deck level pool or a pool with higher sides. Parents should begin by supporting the baby’s bottom with their knee or hand. Once baby grips the wall they can be allowed to practice on their own for short periods of time. Parents must be in attendance at all times in case baby falls under water. If this happens, remain calm, gently pick them up and reassure them that everything is ok.
As children become stronger and once they have mastered holding onto the wall, we encourage them to monkey along the pools edge. Monkeying requires children to move along the wall hand over hand. This is great for their independence and mobility in the water.
In the initial stages parents will need to assist these hand movements. Strategically placed toys at short intervals along the wall may be useful to encourage the child to move. But remember to always remove toys from around the pool area. Leaving toys around the pool may entice a unsupervised child into the pool area.
When performing all the aforementioned activities it is important to remember to be actively supervising your child. No child is safe in the water unless being supervised by an adult.