Baby swimming lessons are not about finding the next Olympic hopeful or rushing your child to learn to swim. Although swimming from an early age can promote water confidence and essential life-saving skills, one of the most amazing benefits of swimming with your child is the bonding experience it provides.
It’s not a race to the finish line
There’s something about modern parenting that makes most of us just that little bit competitive about our children’s progress. Whose child is walking? Who has the ‘best’ sleeper? Who has the most adventurous eater? Whose child has taken to swimming like a duck to water?
But, really, what are we trying to prove? Our children all get to where they’re going in their own time.
What I love about the baby and toddler swimming classes I run is that they offer 45 minutes of one-to-one time between a child and their parent. It’s a brief pocket of time in your busy week when you both get to live in the moment together, and where you have the chance to focus 100% of your attention on your child.
I sometimes feel quite emotional as I look at the faces of the parents and their children together in the water – there’s eye contact, smiles, giggles and an unspoken sense of trust that works wonders for strengthening the unseen bond between them.
Skin-to-skin contact between a parent and child has loads of benefits from birth onwards. It is proven to calm and relax both the mother and baby, regulate a baby’s heart rate and breathing, stimulate the baby’s digestion, regulate their temperature, protect against infection, stimulate feeding behaviour, and stimulate the mother’s body to release hormones that support breastfeeding and nurturing instincts.
Swimming is an incredible way to build skin-to-skin contact into your week – there is nothing more reassuring for a child in water than to feel the gentle, reassuring touch of a parent who is calm, relaxed and giving them complete attention.
Learning and experiencing new things together
Young children are hardwired to learn, with their mental and physical development taking staggering leaps every day as they learn about the world and their place in it. Their senses are heightened and they have an almost infinite curiosity. When you take your child swimming, you have the opportunity to learn and experience new things together.
The water is a natural, comfortable environment for young babies, coming as they have done from life in the womb. It is also a very sensory experience, which young children love.
Once in the water, your child is able to use their body in a way that just isn’t possible on solid ground. There’s a freedom of movement – of breaking away from the confines of gravity – that lets us use different muscles to move around. The ebb and flow of the warm pool water across the skin is also relaxing and familiar to young children, and something you can easily replicate at home in the bath.
If you get your child used to being in the water from an early age, you can help to stop it ever becoming a source of fear or the unknown, and better equip your child to try new experiences.
Swimming is about fun
Although water confidence and life-saving skills such as water orientation, floating, breathing, back floating and kicking are all learnt through swimming lessons, one of the most important things that you can take away from each session is the fact that you and your child have had fun together.
We use singing, water toys and different activities to put fun centre stage, and what better way is there to bond with your child than to have fun with them? You both leave the session feeling lighter, happier and more content with one another’s company, which can be a great counterpoint to sleepless nights or toddler temper tantrums when it can be hard to remember you do have fun together sometimes!
Making swimming fun also gives your child a great message about exercise being good for them, mentally and physically. With as many as 1 in 4, 4-5 year-olds being overweight, it’s more important than ever before to create positive associations around exercise, so that children choose to be active throughout their lives.
Great for parents too
As parents we want nothing more than to do the best we can for our children, to give them opportunities in life and make them happy. Swimming is an activity that helps us meet these goals. Every time you help your child achieve something new in the water, whether it’s pouring water over their hair or completely submerging them, there is a sense of victory, of opening doors to new possibilities and showing your child their infinite potential. In my experience, you will find new confidence in your own ability to support and nurture, and come away with precious memories of time spent with your children that will last for a lifetime.
Do you take your children swimming? What do you enjoy most? Do you agree that swimming is great for bonding? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.