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Swimming with your child

It’s never too soon to instill water confidence in your child

Posted: 30 April 2012
by Junior

While not really swimming using the proper technical strokes that we develop as adults (children don’t have the strength and coordination until at least age four), a baby benefits a great deal from an early introduction to water, not least because it provides him with a firm foundation – known as water adjustment – on which confidence can build. It also offers babies a sense of independence, which would be impossible to achieve on dry land, as well as promoting health and development. 
An important consideration when taking your baby swimming is that the water is warm enough. It needs to be at least 32ºC for babies of three months and under or weighing less than 5.5kg; and 30ºC plus for a baby beyond that. It’s horrible seeing your baby shivering, or worse still, going blue around the lips. Fortunately, most leisure centres nowadays have separate pools specifically for babies and toddlers with the temperature of a lovely, warm bath.

As your child moves into the toddler stage and starts to become more adventurous or, in some cases, downright foolhardy, you may want to opt for a buoyancy aid, which has traditionally been armbands. Swim vests are popular too, often with adjustable buoyancy, and are less restrictive than armbands, thus enabling children to practise their strokes. But there is also a school of thought that flotation devices create a false sense of security.Swimming for toddlers is, like other aspects of learning at this age, all about play. If you opt for lessons, don’t expect your child to be taught formal swim strokes. Instead, there will be lots of fun and games designed to build confidence.

Older children
The time children start school appears to be the logical time to start proper swimming lessons, with a study showing that children learned to swim well at the same average age of five-and-a-half years, regardless of whether they began lessons at two, three or four. How your child progresses shouldn’t be your main concern as some children naturally need more time to move up a level. The main thing is that your child is enjoying himself and feels comfortable and confident in the water.

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