Informal swimming lessons can start from birth at home in the bath tub. Water is a perfect medium to stimulate your baby. The bath becomes a place of fun, enjoyment, stimulation and learning. Parents should provide cuddling, singing, playing and communicating opportunities as part of the daily bath routine. During these informal swimming lessons, parents can also start the conditioning process, where they teach their baby to hold their breath on a verbal command. This conditioning process prepares baby for a trauma free first underwater experience.
To teach breath control on command we use a verbal trigger “baby’s name, ready go” and follow this cue by pouring a cup of water over the baby’s face. Parents must position baby in an upright position, aim for the top of the forehead and allow the water to run smoothly and evenly over the face. Parents should then smile and congratulate their baby on a job well done. Initially this activity triggers the baby’s mammalian dive reflex which causes baby to hold their breath. When performed regularly, this stimulus response method of teaching breath control leads to baby initiating breath control on the parent’s verbal command.
Formal swimming lessons can start between 4 and 6 months of age. At this stage baby has good neck control, parents are comfortable interacting with their child and the baby is now interested in new and exciting situations. When enrolling in swimming lessons parents should visit multiple swim schools in their area to compare the quality of lessons provided. Parents should also ensure that the swim school they choose has instructors who hold current AUSTSWIM qualifications and hold professional memberships with Swim Australia.
It is important to understand that not all parents choose to commence swimming lessons at an early age with their baby. It is a common misconception that if children do not start early, than they are incapable of catching up and therefore cannot achieve great swimming skills. Forty years teaching experience has shown that the children who are regularly exposed to the water are the ones who truly excel. So even if you have an older child who hasn’t started learning to swim yet don’t worry.
Let’s compare two children of the same age. One child started conditioning from birth yet only attends the pool once a month. One child started lessons at 18 months but attends the pool twice a week and practices swimming activities at home in the bath. It is common sense that the child who receives regular practice is more confident, relaxed and therefore can become more independently mobile in the water.
Parents should not feel guilty if they start their child later. However once you decide to embark on the learn to swim journey, you should make a commitment to attend the pool regularly and incorporate swimming skills into your daily bath time routine.