Swimming is a great activity to introduce early to your baby for several reasons. It allows them to discover their mobility in another medium, it may help them improve movement and coordination, and it is a fun an engaging way to spend quality time with your baby. Most of all – if you plan on traveling a lot with your baby, being comfortable around water can help your child enjoy a whole list of exciting activities early in their life.
I have been taking my little one to the pool since she was 5 months old. At 9-months old now she is independent in the pool in her float – the Fred’s Academy Swimtrainer (one of my favorite baby products!). Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your child enjoys swimming:
Safety and health first: yes – no dunking baby in pool like an Oreo cookie in milk! When you take her to the pool, make sure the child is healthy, properly hydrated, and well fed. Also ensure that you use the right sun block if the pool is in a sunny location, and a swim diaper to protect against infections.
- Take it slow: no matter what age you introduce your baby/toddler to the pool, remember to take it slow – don’t expect a natural Michael Phelps on the first day. The pool is a vast scary thing for them before they get used to it and becomes fun. Give them ample time to love it.
- Do it yourself: your child trusts you (the parent) more than anyone in the world – so they would feel a lot more secure if you are one taking them to a pool, and not an instructor, or your sibling, or a cousin or a friend.
- Hold her close, and talk to her: for at least the first few times you take your child to the pool hold her very close to you, and keep talking to her to comfort her. Again, don’t worry about looking like a chatty fool at the pool. Remember the pool water is often colder than bath water, so, holding them close keeps them slightly warm and abates the temperature shock.
- Use props and toys to engage them: bring the baby’s favorite bath toys, or a napkin to play peek-a-boo with. You can also bring a plastic cup to fill and empty into the pool – some babies love the sound and action of water falling.
Slowly introduce equipment: once the child is more comfortable in the water introduce floats that can help them become more independent in the water – their mobility is limited when you are holding them. So choose equipment that allows ample mobility of arms and legs.
- Once they are ready, lose the equipment: my child is not there yet – but once the baby is comfortable in the pool and old enough to follow basic instructions (even if by mimicking you) you can encourage them to let go of the floats. You can start by teaching them the right breathing technique, then teach them to kick their legs, and then to wade their arms. And voila we have a swimmer… ok not so easy – but the more time you spend with them in the pool the faster and easier the process will be.
Some people have the courage to take their newborns to the pool and teach them to swim right away. I wish I were one of them – but I am actually quite a sissy when it comes to my baby – so I am doing it the slow way. You can pick the method that suits you best.
Have stories to share about your experience with baby in pool? Questions for me? I will write the next one about introducing the baby to the beach…