The First Step to a Lifelong Love of the Water

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Waterbabies

We believe our Waterbabies class is the first step towards a lifelong love of the water. 

Everything we do is designed to get your child swimming under the water comfortably or floating on their backs. Classes are 30 minutes long, with a maximum of 7 children, all under 2.5 years of age and working toward similar goals. 

Why we start at 3 months

It can be hard to know when to start, but experience has shown us the earlier the better! By three months babies have a medical history, their immune systems have developed, and they are bonded with you.  Plus, the buoyancy of water and your gentle support is a perfect mix to encourage independent movement and help them explore and have fun. We also know kids respond best when you are confident and having fun, so we want you to enjoy your time in the water as well.

Developing those swimming skills

Learning to swim requires physical, mental and emotional readiness and skills are learned gradually. When a baby is born, gravity is the main influence on the development of independent movement. Water creates a different learning situation, because we now have the combined forces of gravity and buoyancy. For babies, this can be an enjoyable experience or an exciting challenge.

Balance, buoyancy and floating

This is the most important element in learning movement in water. Children learn water balance gradually, from being carried around the pool by their parents, to eventually feeling buoyancy while floating.

Assisted back floating

Lying on the back will often be a very comfortable position for a newborn and offers a great way to feel the water. Initially, the entire body may be supported, but special attention should be given to the head, neck and shoulders, ensuring the head doesn’t slip under water and that water doesn’t enter the mouth. This is something you can try in the bath.

Independent back floating

This is not usually seen under two years but is possible from about five months. It is a great skill to work towards in each class in a fun and relaxed way, without applying pressure or forcing the issue

  • It can be challenging, especially when children are learning to sit up. At that point, the back position can become very frustrating. The waves and splashes of a busy pool make the task more difficult but learning to back float as soon as possible is ideal.
  • Be slow and supportive when laying back, children can be very sensitive to a loss of support or any sudden movement.
  • Allow toys to be held, or point to other visuals overhead to provide distraction.
  • Using a short song or counting to ten while floating will create a pattern, so your child will know how long the float will last. 
Breath control

Children are often capable of holding their breath before they actually go under water. The easiest way to see this is when you pour water over their head and face. When they react to your cues and stay relaxed and comfortable, they are showing they can hold their breath. 

Submersion

To eventually swim, babies must be comfortable with their faces in the water. Until they can hold their breath, they will not be able to keep their face in the water or be happy submerging. Once this skill is achieved, the baby is ready for more advanced submersions. 

Children are never forced to submerge. Be patient and let your baby develop breath control before attempting submersions and work with your teacher to learn the best cues, holds and techniques. Practice just a few each class and limit them to 2 to 3 seconds each, until you are sure they are going well. Soon, you can gradually increase the number and duration of submersions. 

Here are some tips to make going under water a comfortable and fun experience. 

  • Wait until your child is relaxed. Children should be participating in class, happy to get their face wet and feel stable while being held. 


  • Use a consistent verbal cue and facial expression each time. A small lift before submerging also provides a cue that can be felt. 


  • Use a supportive hold and maintain a horizontal body position to avoid getting water in your child’s nose. If a baby’s body and head position are more vertical while submerging, it is easy for water to get in their nose and this can cause coughs, splutters and discomfort!


  • Go all the way. Aim to get your child’s entire head under water, at least to their hairline. Partial submersions can be confusing and actually cause problems. 

  • Finish off by making contact with your shoulder before surfacing. This will develop a good finishing skill and teach your child to avoid “stalling” before the submersion is complete. 


  • If your baby resists going under by arching their back, turning their head or protesting verbally, they may want more control. Allow them to initiate swims, perhaps by placing a toy or another person in front of them and assist them as they start to move.

Released to short glide

Once your child is happily submerging, you may want to let them try swimming on their own. It is quite possible for a six-month-old child to be released comfortably during a submersion and allowed to glide for a few seconds. 

Propelling

Once children are released and gliding, they will often begin kicking their feet or paddling with their arms. It isn’t necessary that they do this right away, or every time. Gliding with their body is a great way to feel the support that water gives them. 

Children will often begin to propel when they feel a need to, so gradually increasing distance or sending them off with less of a push may encourage this. 

It is common to see eight-month-old children, who have been attending regularly, actively propel themselves for a couple of meters. However, remember that babies who are not yet walking will still need assistance to finish off their swims at your shoulder, the wall or platform. 

Turn around swim

The level of swimming required to enter the water, turn and come back to the wall, is quite an accomplishment. It will take most children until at least 2 years, if not longer, even if they have been swimming from an early age. 

Repetition 

Children learn skills by repetition. Even though a child performs a skill one day, this doesn’t mean they will remember it the next, so review of skills previously learned is necessary before moving on to something new. The class formats that you will learn and see repeated are designed to help create comfortable familiarity. For example, though they may try “Humpty Dumpties” every class, they may be carried to the wall on the first day and eventually progress to swimming independently with a breath. So, the same activity, repeated often, can still offer new challenges.

Things to think about

  • Nap time is not swim time –  Try to avoid scheduling your lesson during your child’s usual nap time, so they can be alert and have fun. A sleep before or after class is a great idea.
  • What to pack – Baby’s swimmers, aqua nappies are available at most supermarkets, (please no regular nappies in the pool), hair ties or cap, snacks, obviously towels and don’t forget your own swimmers! 
  • Arrive early – try to arrive 10 minutes before your lesson so both of you are relaxed and ready to go.
  • Have a snack – a cracker or a piece of banana 15 minutes before the lesson keeps baby content and a snack after the lesson also soothes a hungry tummy and helps keep them happy while you get dressed. Try to avoid big meals right before swimming. 
  • There is no rush – Everyone in your class had a first day too! Tell your teacher if anything is unclear or doesn’t feel comfortable. You can follow along with the class and observe what the other babies do. It may be better to allow your child to stay close to you initially and just observe. As you both relax, you can try out more games and activities.
  • Be soothing – Talking reassuringly to your baby and maintaining eye contact keeps them calm. Until they build confidence, stay close and keep them warm under the water. Keeping an eye on your child’s face stops any unplanned drinking. It also helps you notice their changing needs, and of course, all the fun they’re having!
  • Keep moving – Giving an eager swimmer freedom is great– we are trying to develop independence! Each child is different, so some will need enough free movement to match their energy levels. Often, water can have a calming effect on children, but it can also be fun and exciting.

What to do at home

Promotion to Tadpole

Children will be awarded the Waterbabies certificate and be promoted to the Tadpole class when they are: 

  • At least 2.5 years of age.
  • Comfortable under the water.
  • Able to follow directions from the teacher. 
  • Willing to be separated from the parent. 

This will be a fun and important step in your child’s swimming development.

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