Adult-led or baby-led?
In the spirit of inspiring a love of the water, it is worth considering how much we physically do for our babies at the pool. If we are made to do something by someone else, we rarely come to enjoy it as much as we would if we had discovered it for ourselves. And a baby can learn to enjoy something if they see someone they love enjoying it first! As parents, we know the drill: If I've spent a few minutes sending a text on my phone and my toddler reaches for it to play with it too, that is because they can see that it means something to me. Your baby loves you, and what is important to you will be important to them, too!
So how can we inspire a love of water? The answer is a move from adult-led to adult-inspired and baby-led. Sounds confusing? Read on...
Adult-led: Putting a baby or toddler under the water to "swim"
Adult-inspired and baby-led: Holding your baby to face you and blowing bubbles or dipping your face for them to watch. Do this activity a few times and make it clear how much you're enjoying it, and your baby will soon copy! In my classes, babies spend a lot of time with wet hair and wet faces, but the difference is it has been their choice.
Adult-led: Lifting a baby up and into the water to "jump in"
Adult-inspired and baby-led: Try holding your baby with two hands on the waist. Angle the body gently forward and let your baby's balance shift until they drop forwards towards you. After doing this once or twice, your baby will start to do it for himself.
Adult-led: Manipulating the legs to "kick"
Adult-inspired and baby-led: When you swim with your baby (using a woggle if you need one), your baby gets the feel of the way your legs and body move as you swim and they will gradually start to copy. They learn the feeling of moving through the water and find their balance.
Adult-led: Wrestling a baby who is resisting lying on her back!
Adult-inspired and baby-led: There are various ways to hold a baby on her back - your teacher will help you find what works. And what works is very rarely holding a child in a position they don't want to be in against their will. If the answer is no, go with it! My older daughter had months of refusing to lie flat in the water, and now she's a pro when it comes to back floats! Just relax and go with it, pressure-free.
Try to let your baby or toddler take the lead as much as possible - we're aiming to show children how enjoyable being in the water can be, rather than making them meet a checklist. A good swimmer should be relaxed, and look forward to their lessons!