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Water babies: Baby swimming classes

Your baby can be a real water baby, because babies can learn to swim before they can crawl or walk.

Your baby has spent nine months floating in amniotic fluid, so surely splashing around at the leisure centre will be second nature?

Swimming has plenty of benefits for you and your baby and can be a valuable time to bond while doing something fun.

Learning to swim at an early age also equips your child with skills that could save their own, or someone else's, life.

You may be asking: is it never too early to start your little one off in a swimming class, or is it wiser to wait until he or she is older?



When should you start swimming classes?

You can take your baby swimming from a very young age. The NHS says there is no need to wait until they are vaccinated.

British Swimming says the ideal age to get started in the pool is six months, as they can easily get chilled before that.

The younger the better is the advice from the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA). It recommends that mums or dads should join special Parent and Baby swimming programmes. These will be relaxed 'splash about' sessions in which you will bring your baby or toddler into the water, holding them close so they feel secure.

It is all about having fun while getting used to being in the water.

Don't forget that bath time is often a child's first experience of water, so make sure it is enjoyable. Gently splash your baby's head and body with a little water.

In the summer months, a paddling pool in the garden will allow a child to splash around from the time they can sit up unaided. Remember, though, never to leave a young child unsupervised in either the bath or a paddling pool.

Formal swimming lessons are suitable for older children. You will need to check with the instructor whether there is a minimum age, but expect them to be three or four years before they will be accepted on to a course.

What should I look for in a swimming class?

The STA recommends:

  • Making sure swimming teachers have undergone Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
  • Ensuring the instructors hold nationally recognised qualifications. The teaching of babies and infants should only be undertaken by holders of a suitable specialist teaching certificate such as the STA Baby and Pre-School Certificate.
  • Checking that the Learn to Swim programme includes water safety education.
  • Ensuring that lifeguards will be on duty during classes.

How do I find the right pool?

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing a pool.

For instance:

  • How warm is the water? The water and air temperature must be higher than for normal public swimming pools - at least 30°C (32°C for babies under three months old or weighing less than 5.5 kilos/12 lbs).
  • How deep is the water? Is there a shallow area where you will be able to stand comfortably, holding your baby with its head above the surface?
  • What are the facilities like? Does the pool have baby changing facilities and lockers to store clothes and your baby- changing bag? Is there a café or seating area where you will be able to feed baby?
  • Are there any restrictions on numbers? Some local authority pools have rules about how many young children can accompany one adult. This might be a problem if you are bringing other siblings. You could always link up with another mum or dad to keep the numbers balanced.


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