5 ways without submersion
Some baby swim schools put babies beneath the water from lesson one using a cue. Some babies love the experience, others aren't so keen - the reaction varies from child to child. At Turtles Swim School, we don't submerge the babies who come to us for one main reason:
Submersion under the water (whether done by the parent or teacher) doesn't teach a baby to swim with good technique.
That definitely doesn't mean that we need to protect babies from the water! Here are five ways to teach a love of the water without adult led submersion:
1. Go under yourself, and hold your baby (or toddler) lightly enough so that they can copy you! Babies learn from their parents and carers, so if you go under and make it look fun, they'll want to try and copy. Just make sure that you're holding them gently enough so that they can pop their mouths and faces in.
2. Enjoy watering cans and toys - be patient and use the watering can to wet your baby's back, shoulders, back of head (and your face!) Let them watch you enjoying the water in their bodies.
3. Give your baby an opportunity to put herself under the water - when they do a seated jump to you, let them go under - they're leaning into the water and they need to understand the consequence (they'll get wet!) This isn't the same as conditioning and cuing a child before submerging them yourself. When they're old enough, let them hold the wall and swim to you independently.
4. Swim with your baby! Babies love to go for rides on you - pop them on your back (when you lie on your front) or on your chest (when you lie on your back - the easiest way to start) and go for a swim. Use a noodle if you need the support, and let them feel the rhythm of your legs kicking and enjoy being lower in the water and physically so close to you. If they fall off, no problem - scoop them up and pop them back on!
5. Let them feel the water all around them - hold them low in the water, use your arm to wash the water over their bodies. If another child is making a splash, don't pull them away straight away - let them get a little bit splashed! Most babies actually quite enjoy it.
If you work at their pace, you can't go wrong - we don't want to submerge our babies under the water, but we also don't want to protect them from the water at all costs. We need to give children an opportunity to really trust you in the water and develop happy memories and associations with swimming lessons.