When should I start teaching my baby to swim? And how do I find a good swim school?

We hear these questions from every parent. And whilst it is fantastic that our lives in Australia revolve around water, it also means that there is an increased risk of drowning. Sadly, in Australia, drowning happens to be one of the largest killers of children in the zero to four age group with 21 drownings between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016. Though this was a 30% decrease on the 10-year average, it is preventable (Royal Life Drowning Report 2015-2016). In addition to the number of deaths every year, for every child who drowns, there are four children who suffer from immersion in various degrees, with some requiring life-long care.

One of the reasons we are starting to see a decrease in deaths in the zero to four age group is due to our education on drowning prevention via programs such as Laurie Lawrence’s FIVE ALIVE and, more recently, the widespread launch of free Aquatic Education programs for two and three-month-old babies throughout Australia.

Babies are born with a natural affinity for water and a great newborn program will educate parents on the correct way to introduce their babies safely & happily into the pool. The program should promote movement, touch and bonding, as well as focusing on visual, audio, social, emotional and physical development. Your chosen program should only be carried out by those who have an in depth knowledge of child development through swimming and who teach from the heart.

Besides the obvious sensory, bonding and lifesaving benefits of baby and toddler swimming, a recent seven-year study by Griffith University Institute for Educational Research found that children who are involved in early childhood swimming achieve physical milestones faster and scored significantly higher in visual, motor skill and mathematically related tasks. Oral expression and general areas of literacy and numerology are also vastly improved as a result of early swimming lessons.

Many parents ask, “How long before my child can swim?”. It’s so important for parents to understand that learning to swim is a long-term investment that cannot be achieved unless your child has regular exposure to water. It is not until the age of about 7 that a child will experience true skill retention. And, I always tell parents that your child is safer once they can swim a kilometre confidently.

A child is quite capable of swimming independently with a pop-up breath or back roll by 18 months of age. Or, at the very least be able to fall in and get back to the side at this age. With that said, it is unrealistic to expect your child to do this if they are only attending lessons once a week with no other water play.

Ideally, a minimum of one lesson per week with further practice three or more times per week will give your child the best chance of becoming safer faster.

I agree with Laurie Lawrence when he says: “First thing I look for is good, clean sparkling water. Next is a happy environment, smiling, happy teachers. Water should be warm, the pool preferably enclosed, the surrounds clean and one that has Swim Australia accreditation.”

In addition, you should look for:

• Small class sizes of a maximum of three or four based on age and ability.
• A program that is based on child development principles and uses gentle techniques.
• A program that caters to all ages and stages, and is conducted 12 months of the year.

And remember there is never a reason for any method of teaching to cause fear or trauma in a child. Studies are underway to prove that any method that uses such methods has long-lasting psychological effects on the growing brain of the child into adulthood. A love and respect of the water is important to teach our children.

Swimming should be a fun and beautiful experience. One that every child deserves.

Tub Time Tips

Bath time is a great time to introduce your little one to the water. A few bath toys, containers and Mum or Dad supervising can make for a great evening activity.

– Ensure a safer sitting position with Dreambaby® Bath Support with Foam Padding which provides comfort and support for newborns up to six months old (8kg/17.5lbs), while reducing the physical stress on parents.

– Enjoy mould-free toys with Oil and Carol mould-free bath toys. This unique range of bath toys for babies are not only baby-safe and eco-friendly, but they won’t go mouldy in the bath. You can get your collection at Wild and Whimsical Things. www.wildandwhimsicalthings.com.au/collections/oli-carol

– Prevent scaling with Dreambaby® Bath Tub Spout Cover. Not only can the cover prevent scalding, but also nasty bumps and bruises which can occur if your little one accidentally falls and hits the spout. Simply slide it over any standard spout!

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