After Covid lockdown 3 it has felt pretty hard to imagine how we are going to get back into the swing of normality. Swimming is one thing pretty much no child has done in the last year and I mean just getting them in the pool with their parents and families, not just lessons. I’m delighted to write a little bit about the importance of swimming and how they can do some at home in the bath. We’ll all be back in the pool before long and all children will benefit from water play regardless of their age.
#1 Sensory development
Sensory experiences in life are a must for children for healthy development, have you ever closed your eyes in a pool and felt the water on your fingers, walked through it and felt what a baby must feel when they are in the water for the first time. It is definitely something I would recommend you try. In January 2018 the awesome @aquasensory took us on a sensory tour of one of our pools. The whole teaching team was astounded by how they viewed the water so differently when they shut their eyes and focused on how the sound and touch of the water changed.
The senses are how babies learn and develop, not just the feel of the water but the smell, the taste and the noises it makes with your ears in or out of the water. For some babies this can even be too intense which is why they can resist, cry and struggle to connect in a class, our teachers understand this and will talk to you about how to support your child in the most positive way.
In our classes we focus on many activities which have hidden benefits, an example is BALANCE. All our senses work together in different activities and movements, up and down, side to side, standing, crawling, climbing out the water – all these things help to support learning to balance which is something we learn how to do through repetition of movement. All this helps to support a strong core in the future which is the backbone for many different sports and activities.
Our Milestone programme is based around the principles of development through the months and years of a child’s life. All children hit these milestones at different times but by supporting these changes in their lessons. Swimming can really help to build gross and fine motor skills. There are a lot of things that babies can do in the water that they can’t yet do on land!
Warning (I am going to focus a little on partners here!!), pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding can give mums the edge for the first few months. Developing intense and powerful bonds is vitally important with both parents. Babies development through laughing, smiling and babbling, building on the two way communication can hugely support the bond you make with your child. It can take on average six months to reach this point but it will happen.
For all parents, the time focused in the water helps to strengthen the bond between you and your baby. In the water, you are holding them close and you have regular skin to skin contact. Being in the water can calm and relax you both, they can smell you and feel your heartbeat, it reminds them of the safe place of the womb.
It’s a place for you to have fun, and I can assure you that the fun that children have in the water from birth and forever is the most important thing that you can do for future water confidence.
#3 Fun fun fun
So following on from the point above (and please don’t tell anyone this little secret!) the absolute BEST way to teach children to swim is to enjoy being in the water! We know not all parents have the confidence themselves so it can take a lot of being brave to support your children in this activity but if this is the future goal then trust me your love and bond with them and laughter will achieve life long water confidence.
Baby swimming teachers are exceptional at facilitating building this fun approach to swimming but through all the years of experience we have at Baby Squids we know that the families who do lots of swimming outside of lessons have the best chance of children learning to swim at an early age and more importantly not being frightened of the water.
Starting with the bath, you can use fun toys or just objects around the house, small watering cans or children’s cups (which you can reuse by putting holes in for sprinkling water out of!) are perfect for encouraging them to sprinkle water on their faces. You can find toy pots, pans, spoons and cups to create a little kitchen in the bath so they can create potions in the bubbles are great for playing without a huge cost of bath toys.
#4 Water Confidence and Safety
So once you’ve had fun in the bath and you are ready for the pool you may find that your child is not so happy going into a big open (possibly busy) swimming pool. This is key to your child and especially your enjoyment of swimming lessons, if you attend a lesson and you feel your child isn’t enjoying themselves (and they will make it known!!) then chat to your teacher as they should be able to help. Here are my top tips of how to manage water confidence wobbles.
Firstly really important to remember that as I mentioned above the pool is a sensory explosion for babies, toddlers and beyond. As children go through life some may have life experiences that may put them off the water, it is important to go at their own pace and to not be frustrated by lack of progress or comparison to other children.
Pools with stepped entry are fantastic for learning to swim, older babies and toddlers can sit on the steps and play with toys on the side of the pool. This means when they enter the water it is under their terms too which is really helpful if you have a child a little anxious. One in the water, try out sitting on the side and jumping into your arms and singing songs to them as you bounce them around the water.
Teach them how to hold onto the side and how to float on their backs, these things take time but with patience and a smile, they are really important for safety in the swimming pool. And remember the ultimate goal is to have a child who feels comfortable in the water and has fun. Lessons are fantastic for regularly teaching different safety features and supporting a fun approach to learning to swim.
#5 Mental health and well being
The water is a lovely calm place to be, swimming is well known to release endorphins in the brain as other forms of exercise do. But being in the water, whether at the pool or outdoors, can help you relax your body, clear your mind and reduce anxiety. Swimming is said to reduce stress more so than any other sport – it also boosts mood and brain health. This isn’t just related to adults, children can benefit from this too.
I am no scientist but did you know that blue is a soothing colour that affects us mentally, the colour is known to aid concentration and soothe the mind! Blue is a huge part of the natural world due to its association with water! The human body is made of about 70% water – no wonder, then, that many babies feel drawn towards the water from a young age.
So all that blowing bubbles, splashing and floating around has immediate and future great physical benefits which in turn support their mental development. And whilst we are talking about mental health it is worth bearing in mind that it’s important to focus on bonding during a baby’s first few months. Swimming is a wonderful way to bond and helps to release those all-important endorphins! A double dose of that magical formula!
Can’t wait to get back in the pool next week! All our teachers are so excited, we will be taking it slow to start with so do not hesitate to talk to us if you have any questions.
Love Laura x