It is a common misconception that babies have the inherent ability to swim. When submerged in water, an infant under six months of age is likely to open their eyes, hold their breath, and move their arms and legs to give the impression of “swimming”. This is known to doctors as the bradycardic response, and as convincing as it may seem that the baby knows how to swim it is physically impossible for him or her to do so. Don’t believe it? You can check out this article by babycenter to learn more about this response and some facts behind it here.
That being said, it’s even more of a necessity to teach your kids to swim at a very young age. These formative years will teach them to either love or fear the water, and as swimming is a life skill the former is much better than the latter. But how do you teach a baby how to swim without a pool? The good news is, getting a child used to being in the water doesn’t need a pool. All you need is a tub, a small basin, or anything that can hold a few inches of water. We have a few tips and exercises that you can do in your own home to help your little ones get comfortable in the water and get them splashing around in no time.
PREPPING THE BATHROOM
Before dipping into your first swimming lesson, you first have to prepare the bathroom. This is simple and easy, but is essential for the child’s safety and your convenience. You can do this in either the shower area or in a bathtub.
First, fill the vessel with a few inches of warm water. If possible, put enough water so that it can reach your baby’s ears while they are on their back, giving enough space for your hand to be underneath them. Make sure that you turn the water source off to ensure that the water level cannot rise any higher.
Next, prepare a dipper or a small container that you can use to gently pour water from. Keep this near the water so that it’s within arms reach.
Lastly, have a towel within arms reach. These steps ensure that when the child is in the water you can give them your undivided attention. Never leave your baby unattended in the water, even when they seem to be enjoying themselves and able to keep afloat in the shallow water.
KEEP CALM AND SOOTHE ON
Before introducing your child to the water, your presence as a parent must be calm and calming for the baby. Their reaction to the water is greatly affected by your reaction to them being in water. Remember, you’re in a controlled environment and as long as you are in close supervision of your child the water is nothing to be feared. You can reinforce your calming presence by speaking in gentle, soothing tones as you dictate all that you’re doing in the water. For example, if the baby splashes you can say “Splashing” in warm tones. If you’ve already started giving your little one a bath, this can be a good time to exercise this.
WATER CONDITIONING FOR BEGINNERS
Now you’re ready to start conditioning your baby to the water. Begin by carrying your baby to the shower area or bathtub. If able, lay down on your back and place your child’s chest on yours so that you and your baby are belly to belly. If there’s not enough space, you can sit upright and place your child on your chest. Make sure that your position is secure and that there’s no danger of slipping.
Reach over to the dipper and fill it with some warm water, then gently pour it over your baby’s back and legs introducing them to the sensation of warmth and wetness by saying “One Two Ready Go!” then pouring the water from the back of the head, then working your way towards the face. It’s really important to get the verbal and physical cues right so that you can communicate a calm and safe environment.
INTRODUCTION TO SUBMERSION
After your child is acclimated to being wet, you can now introduce them to submersion. Slowly sit the child up in front of you, use the verbal cue “One Two Ready Go!” and lower them into the vessel with warm water. Do this gradually until your child is seated and eventually laying on their back with the water no higher than ear level. Support your baby’s head to make them feel secure, but once he or she is more comfortable you may remove your hand. Make sure that you are always within arms reach of the baby by keeping your hands to either side of the child.
If your child is comfortable in this position, you may gently turn them over so that they’re stomach is in the water. While in this position be sure to support their head and their stomach by placing your palms under their stomach and resting their head on your forearm. This position allows the baby more freedom to splash and interact with the water.
The more you and the child get accustomed to these exercises you may opt to fill the vessel or tub with more water to let the baby experience more freedom during these exercises.
DON’T FORGET THE FUN!
After all is said and done, this is still a great bonding opportunity for you and your little one. Learning how to swim and keeping your child safe while doing so is so important, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyable for both you and the baby. You can softly splash and let the splash with you, explore the water together as a parent and child and make it a meaningful bonding experience that you both will cherish for years to come. Try out these steps at home and keep learning how to swim #uniquelycolorful!