Babies are comfortable in the water as long as they feel safe. We’ve worked with the British Association of Paediatricians to develop this guidance on the best way to introduce your baby to swimming.
You can use bath time as a way to get your baby used to the water. Keep bath time short, reassure your baby by smiling, talking to them and maintaining eye contact.
From an early age babies will instinctively move arms and legs when immersed in water and you can use this to make them familiar with feeling supported and feel water on their face.
The benefits of baby swimming
Taking your baby swimming for the first time can be a slightly daunting experience for most parents. Are they too young? Will they enjoy it? Will the water be too cold? Usually you will have a plethora of questions bounding around you mind, but for the most part, there is nothing to worry about.
Experts at the ASA and paediatricians would usually recommend that a baby starts swimming at around six months old, but you can always start to get them prepared before they go to the pool. You can use the bath to get them used to the feeling of being immersed in water.
Swimming is one of the few sports that are accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability, and there are many benefits to general health and wellbeing. Here are a few of the main benefits of swimming for babies:
- Swimming is one of the best loved family activities. It is the largest participation sport in the UK and many children say it is their favourite family pastime, so it’s good to get them started early to build water confidence.
- Swimming helps to improve coordination and balance. Because much of your baby’s body is supported by water, the main focus for them is on maintaining balance. On the whole, babies who swim have a much better balance out of the pool.
- Swimming helps to build muscles. Working and strengthening all of their muscles effectively helps to make them stronger.
- Swimming provides quality bonding time. We always have less time that we would like with our kids; it is an unfortunate effect of being so busy. Time in the pool is one of the few times when your child has your undivided attention for the duration, so make the most of it.
- Swimming strengthens your baby on the inside. While swimming will help to develop their muscles and joints, it also improves the strength of their heart and lungs, and helps to develop their brain.
- Swimming can improve their sleeping pattern. While it isn’t going to make them sleep through the night every night, the extra exercise will help to make your baby sleepier.
- Swimming can improve a baby’s appetite. Lots of gentle exercise and warm water helps to make a baby hungry, so make sure you have some sort of snack or bottle for after they finish.
- Swimming builds water confidence. Many parents pass on an uneasiness of water to their children because they themselves are not confident swimmers. Going in the water with your baby will not only make them more assured about being in and around water, it can build your confidence too!
There are many different ways of introducing your baby to the water, whether that be in a public pool session with you, or in baby swimming lessons, either way it is the best place to develop your child’s physical abilities and improve their understanding of water safety.
Moving to the swimming pool
When you go swimming with your baby try to:
- Submerge your baby to shoulder level or ensure they are wearing a full suit. Babies out of the water will soon become cold.
- Watch your baby’s face so it does not fall below the water and so you can monitor their reactions.
- Keep moving – your baby becomes aware that by moving their arms and legs they will stay afloat.
Developing water confidence
We have developed the ASA Learn to Swim Pathway to take children through their first splash to full competence in the water.
Our two schemes introduce the swimming environment through fun and games, with the emphasis on development of basic motor skills.
Swim a Song
Swim a Song has been created by the ASA, in conjunction with Total Swimming, to teach water safety and movement through structured play and exercise to music. Check out the video left for an introduction.
Track down your local pool with our Pool Finder and ask them if they deliver Swim a Song lessons.
If not, the Swim a Song Parent Pack contains everything you need to get started: an explanatory booklet, a CD of 32 songs, a sticker sheet, progress chart and a towel.
Our Duckling Awards reward your youngster for the progress they are making with certificates and badges to mark their achievements and motivate.