Is my child a water baby or a squid?
There are milestones in our children’s life that can be hard, on both us and them, but we know that we are doing the right thing for our child. Issues like bottle or breastfeed, when to wean, when to start solids, when to take away the dummy, to sleep train, let them cry it out or share a bed with Mum and Dad, when to start daycare – and the list goes on. Everyone has their opinion (and often will give it whether you want it or not) but there is really no clear cut right or wrong in most cases. It’s not a matter of life and death. Except in the case of when to start babies swimming lessons.
Living in Australia means being exposed to many varying aquatic situations – pools, beaches, rivers etc. Supervison and barriers are important layers of protection that should always be in place, but the sooner your child can submerge in the water, turn around and get to the side and pull themselves out of the pool, the safer they will be. Drowning remains the number 1 cause of accidental death in Australian children under the age of 5. Which is why the answer to “when to learn to swim’ is clear cut – as soon as possible after 6 months of age.
Babies are not born with a fear of the water, in fact they are surrounded by water during gestation. It is much easier to introduce them to the water and practise water familiarisation with a child of this age. Sometimes, due to a range of circumstances out of our control, including covid last year, we are not able to start our children until later, which can often be more difficult for child and parent, as the child is at a different stage developmentally and sometimes more anxious. But learning to swim is not a skill that we can ignore or delay teaching simply because the child shows resistance – it is far too important not to persevere.
We generally recommend Water Babies from 6 – 24 months (where the parent is also in the water with the child) but recognise that all children are different so work with you to find the right time to promote your child to Squids, the level where a child begins to learn to swim independently of their parents. This often coincides with the child turning 2, a perfect age to begin to learn important lessons, ie to listen to instructions from the teacher, sit still and wait their turn, etc. Crying is common – the child has had Mummy or Daddy physically supporting them in the water until this point – so it’s not a surprise that many children can become unsettled during this transition phase. At this point in time, patience and perseverance are the all important ingredients – as is remaining happy and positive but resolute in the face of any resistance from your child. Leaning to swim is in their best interests. A child will not be traumatised by swimming lessons. They (and you) may well be traumatised by a near drowning incident, or worse.
Believe me, I practise what I preach. My own daughter cried for 8 weeks, leading to me retreating to the carpark so she couldn’t see me! I understand what it is like for the parents………so hard….…however having a backyard pool I knew I was doing the right thing no matter how much the crying was uncomfortable to listen to. She is now a district swimmer, but more importantly, she was able to turn around and get to the side of the pool independently before she was 2 years old. The 4-6 weeks of being unsettled are difficult – but they do come through the other side, often more quickly than that (6 weeks is only actually 3 hours of water time).
It is proven that more than 1 lesson a week can fast track swimming skills, so make ups, discounted second weekly lessons, or school holiday intensive weeks are a great way to achieve progression faster, especially for Squids, and accelerate your child’s swim skills and love of the water. The longer we leave it to begin lessons, the harder it can be for a child to overcome their resistance and fears. Make the decision that your child will learn to swim, stay strong, and you will see progression in no time.
We are more than happy to have a chat and answer any questions you might have – our customers are extremely important to us, teaching children to swim and keeping them safe is what we have been doing for nearly 30 years. Please reach out if you have any concerns – Love to Swim, Swim for Safety, Swim for Life!