By Mark Collins, CEO of JUMP! Swim Schools

Deciding when to take your baby to his or her first swimming lesson is a big decision for any parent. You want to know your baby is ready and will enjoy the experience.

Starting at an early age (from 3 months+) is a very different experience to waiting until they are a toddler or older and there are often lots of questions about what to expect and what actually happens at swimming classes designed for babies.

It can be a wonderful experience for both baby and parents and provide special bonding time that involves lots of cuddles, songs and fun while also being a social activity for parents.

It can also give a child a huge head start providing life-saving water skills from a very young age. When children start early they adapt so quickly and swimming becomes a normal and enjoyable activity in their lives.

So what can you expect at baby swimming lessons?  In each lesson, you can expect a series of activities that aim to gradually improve baby’s confidence, breath control, buoyancy and mobility.

Swimming lessons can boost your baby’s confidence in the water.

It can seem like a lot of singing and games, but so much is being developed with every activity, for example:

  • A welcome song with hand splashing helps to set the scene for baby and the splashing of hands gets them used to the feeling of having water on their face.
  • There’s a lot of singing in baby swim classes as it assists to keep baby calm and happy in the pool environment and also creates cues, so they know what to expect next.
  • ‘Chasing’ down brightly coloured floating balls in the pool introduces baby to the feeling of their buoyancy in the water. As they develop, this activity helps to get baby moving in the water, kicking and reaching.
  • Using a plastic cup to pour a small amount of water gently over baby’s ears, hair and shoulders, and eventually over their face, helps condition children to be comfortable in and around the water and introduce them to the concept of submerging and holding their breath.

Most babies really enjoy the water but the key is to follow your baby’s cues and take it one small step at a time. Most activities can be modified according to your baby’s comfort level and your swim teacher will help guide you and modify activities for your child if required.

The use of verbal and physical cues by both the teacher and you (with the teacher’s guidance) will help baby learn and prepare for what’s about to happen. It’s amazing how quickly they learn; using these cues, babies can be closing their eyes and mouth from a very young age, ready to submerge.

Your baby will quickly learn new skills in the water, like closing their eyes and mouth.

From the age of three months up to approximately 9 months, the main goals of baby swim lessons are to help baby:

  • Accept water
  • Be comfortable with water on their face
  • Hold their breath for up to or equal to 5 seconds
  • Have very basic mobility skills
  • Float on their back with support

By nine months, baby should be able to comfortably submerge to a teacher and be kicking and reaching. The great bonus at this age, is that most of the skills can also be practised in the tub at home during bath time and this further reinforces key skills.

For more information visit Jump Swim Schools.