Questions & Answers
Questions Helpful in Selecting a Baby-Friendly Program
• Teachers of infants and toddlers should be trained by a child centered instructor. All teachers should be certified in infant-child CPR and first aid. Teachers must be in tune with children in thought and action. Being a champion swimmer or coach, a doctor or even a well known teacher (who has done it his/her way for years) does necessarily guarantee that they are aware of or sensitive to the feelings, needs or point of view of baby swim students. Do they deal well with and have good rapport with the children and their parents?
• Are the teachers enthusiastic, patient and focused on the class and the children? Do they know when and how to introduce skills sequentially in the curriculum or do they teach everything all at once? Does the teacher address the fears of the child (if they exist) or do they create them? Seek out a mentor not a tormentor.
• Are the swimming skills taught age and developmentally appropriate. Are the skills introduced gradually and when the children are ready? Are children being submerged before they are relaxed and adjusted to the water? Are they being forced against their will on to their backs? Is positive reinforcement being used? Are the teachers words consistent with their actions? Infants and toddlers do require a high level of trust.
Are the children enjoying class or are they crying or trying to escape? Are they swallowing water? Are children throwing up from fear or from swallowing excessive amounts of water. Are the children thriving or surrendering? Are babies crying in the parking lot before or after class? Ask parents if their children cry or become excited when they mention the swimming teachers name or swim lessons?
• Many programs only show you the end result. Ask questions over the phone. View the process, if possible go observe unannounced. Stay and watch as many lessons as possible. Do not feel obligated to enroll in a program that does not feel right to you. If you make a selection and then discover later that it is not in tune with your child, do not hesitate to switch to a more suitable program.
How often should we attend class?
Throughout the water adjustment phase and initial submersion stages we suggest that babies will attend class (or practicing at home) at least 4 times per month. They will be able to learn most smoothly and naturally. This is a necessity for children who are cautious, adverse to water on their face or who have been traumatized by an aggressive swim program.
Learning is far more effective when taught “a little bit on a lot of days”, than cramming one day a week. Parents who are only able to attend to class need to exercise a hearty dose of patience, and supplement on non-class days with practice at home, even if just for ten minutes. If you do not have access to a pool for practice, enjoyable baths are very beneficial for water adjustment on the face. Gently pour small amounts of water down your child’s face, on the count 1-2-3-pour on four. Do this several times a bath (before you add soap or shampoo). You can employ puppets, washcloths, nerf balls and dolls to assist with this activity.
Once your baby is kicking through the water holding their breath for 5 seconds (this takes time), if you need to cut back on practice days, just be aware that your child’s swimming progress is roughly linked to how often you practice. Enjoy each class for its own sake.
When will they really learn how to swim?
Many people who call us will ask if their babies are going to learn to swim the crawl stroke– to them, that is swimming. In infant-toddler terms, swimming to us it is the ability to move through the water, harmoniously on their own accord. Initially, for very short distances. In the younger stages, the primary mode of propulsion is kicking. For those families who continue to practice, their child will eventually be able jump in, turn around and swim back to the side.
Some babies who started prior to their first birthday by the age of 25 months can swim comfortably holding their breath over 20 seconds covering long distances. They come up after the swim relaxed and calm (please do not try this at home). This took hundreds of hours of practice and very gradual lengthening of the swims. Babies should finish each swim happy, not panting and not take in any water.
Will my child be drownproofed after taking swim lessons?
No one is ever drownproof. Utmost caution must always be in effect in and around water. Adult supervision and barriers between your child and the pool are your best defense for reducing the risk against an aquatic accident. However, as your child reaches new levels in their swimming skills, they will eventually be able to perform maneuvers which can increase their chances of getting to safety if an unsupervised water entry were to occur. These achievements should never give parents or caregivers a false sense of security.
My pediatrician says I should wait to start until my baby is 4 years old?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children are not developmentally ready to learn to swim until they are 4 years old. I would agree that this is true in terms of learning the formal strokes: the crawl stroke, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. However, experience in thousands of child-centered programs around the world, bares witness to the fact the infants and toddlers can “swim”. Some people who are unaware, think that you must swim freestyle to be swimming. If you ask most experienced “baby friendly” swimming teachers, they will tell you that swimming is “harmonious movement through the water”.
The AAP is also concerned about water intoxication, which can be an issue when babies are taught with forced, premature, repeated submersions; forced back floating or where children are crying or gagging. Seek out programs which teach a gentle, gradual child-paced curriculum, following safe teaching guidelines.
Do all infants and toddlers love to swim?
Wish they did. Unfortunately, some babies are very cautious about everything. Some are frightened of new situations or strangers. Others are extremely uncomfortable with water on their face. Often, this child’s parent is also adverse to water on their face. Parents need to be relaxed, transferring calmness to their baby. Positive, proactive parenting, consistent practice and very gradual introduction to water on the face (above the surface) all combine for success. A frightened infant or toddler can be creatively redirected to comfort through playing games, singing songs and appealing to their vivid imagination. A positive group class situation greatly helps to ease the fears of most children. Focus on what your child can do and be patient. Eventually, through a trusting and secure learning environment, play and perseverance, a tolerance for water on the face will be developed. Do not submerge children until they are relaxed and adjusted to water poured on their face. This can take time, but it’s worth the effort. Your child will appreciate it.
What is the best age to start?
We have observed that the optimal age to start babies is between three months and 12 months old. At this stage the majority of infants are ripe in the water. They are comfortable, the water feels natural. These very young babies still seem to have a memory of the fluid environment in the womb. However, a window of opportunity for smooth learning still exits up to approximately 18 months old (especially for water adjustment and initial submersions). At approximately 19 months to 24 months toddlers can begin to enter the “challenging twos” phase. It is easier to teach water adjustment and breath control before this stage begins. However, it is never too late when utilizing a creative and interactive curriculum. The group class structure works miracles and motivates children to participate with their peers, at any age.
What do you think about floatation devices?
We of course encourage our little ones to learn to swim primarily without floatation devices. Children must be aware that without floatation devices they have to know how to propel themselves safely through the water. However, “floaties” are very good in terms of supplemental training for toddlers. The vertical body position inherent in “floatie” swimming can be easily shifted to a more horizontal position in the water, once the children begin formal instruction. Children are very easy to teach once they entered swim lessons because they were comfortable in the water, especially with water on their face. Water Wings and Bema flippers used as a training device encourage children as young as 1 1/2 years old to kick, as they chase their favorite toy or mom and dad.
What to bring for class?
Bring your baby with one of the parents. The baby must wear one of the available swim suits for babies (we recommend Huggies). In order to keep the water clean from bacteria the baby must be washed before entering the water.
The parent must also wear bathing suit. At the center you can find a baby friendly environment and a place to change and bath suitable for parent and baby. Please don’t forget a change of closes, towel and diapers. For non breast feeding babies; do prepare after water launch, water does make the little ones hungry.
The center will provide the option of separate gender groups (parent). The sessions/lessons will be attended by the same parent for all lessons.
Most importantly, lessons should always be fun, crying is not a prerequisite for learning how to swim.