Baby Swimming - it’s not about swimming, but about being safe!Blog guest: Bianca Riel
Her passion for teaching swimming and drowning prevention started 5 years ago in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is promoting the philosophy of quality swimming and “JOY OF LEARNING” in water. Robert Strauss from Miami became one of her swimming guru for safe, fun and quality teaching. She created “Drowning Awareness South East Asia” to bring more awareness about this topic to swimming schools, teachers, parents, and children. Today, Bianca Rial is a full-time mum, teaching her baby water competence and joy of water and educating other parents about water safety and drowning prevention.
For Swimming Dad as a #Blog guest, Bianca Rial discovers: How important is the role of parents during the baby's familiarization with the water? How much does swimming from an early age help children to be safer and more confident in the water later - to learn to swim and enjoy? From her experience, what are the benefits of baby swimming for mothers and babies?
From your experience (mum and swimming coach), what are the benefits of baby swimming for mothers and babies?
One of the benefits is quality time and building trust. Babies still can’t do anything themselves and need quality time, love, and care. I have now over 20 sessions with my baby, starting at 4 months. I see such a big difference in his gross motor skills, how he grabs toys and knows already how to hold on to the pool edge. Also, his trust that he can rely on me and feels secure and safe, I feel, got stronger. I have to emphasize, that I am not enforcing anything, I let him guide me and have fun with him together. Ok, ok, the singing part comes from me, but he is a good singer as well already.
From your experience, how important is the role of parents during the baby's familiarization with the water?
It's super important. I saw many times that parents don’t have time during the day to go to swimming lessons and send their nanny or another caretaker, who is often very uncomfortable being in the water, depending on if she can swim or not and other factors. For me, swimming is a bonding - relaxing time for both the child and parent. If you never spend quality time with your baby, how will it be able to trust you later? Trust is built early on through repetition and being proactive.
Who's easier to relax in water, babies or parents?
Depends on both. If parents can’t swim they feel very insecure and transport it to the baby. But in general, I would say the parent, as you can talk to them and make them feel comfortable. If the baby feels cold, or not happy, it might need longer to calm down and relax. If a baby doesn’t feel safe, it will be hard to relax the baby.
Parents need to be patient with themselves and the baby. Every environment is different for the baby and needs time to adapt.We parents need to learn to be patient and look after the needs of our babies.
What are the fears, and prejudices of parents most often about baby swimming, did you have them?
Oh yeah, the first time I went with my baby into the pool, I felt so insecure, am I doing this right or wrong, of course, the pool was too cold and a cold wind was going. After 2min we were outside again and my little one was screaming his lungs out for 5min because he was under shock. I felt so bad for 2 weeks, that I didn’t go swimming with him until the outdoor pool and the air was warm enough.
After my first attempt, I had the fear of will the pool be warm enough that my baby doesn’t cry again. If my baby cries, what will people think of me – am I a good mum?!?
What will people think of me if I sing and play with my son alone?
It feels strange in the first view sessions, but it will get better and you and the baby quickly feel more comfortable and see the benefits of being in the water. It’s the same strange feeling once you start talking to your baby and you don’t get a response, but you know if you keep doing it, it will have benefits for the baby later.
Can you compare baby swimming in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe (from your experience)... Are their differences...?
From my experience, teachers who love working with children will have the right approach and make it safe and interesting for the baby and caregiver. Children need to learn through play and repetition. If a safe and playful environment is given to children, they will grow and learn to love water.
It doesn’t matter where you are located on this planet, if you understand babies and have the right approach, the parents and the baby will come back to your lesson.
Have you enrolled your baby into the baby swimming class yet? If yes, when did you start, and if not when?
I didn’t enroll my baby yet, we have so many children in our pool, that he mostly has another baby/ child to swim with, but I highly can recommend starting as soon as possible with it. Best when you feel ready as a parent. Often swim schools have a minimum age of 6months, some start as soon as 3 months.
How much does swimming from an early age help children to be safer and more confident in the water later - to learn to swim and enjoy?
I am a big believer the earlier a child learns how to be safe in, around, and near water, the faster it will learn to swim and enjoy being in the water. First and foremost it’s not about swimming, but about being safe. If you don’t know how to get back from the edge of a pool, you will drown, if you don’t obey pool safety rules, bad things will happen. Creating joy for water in the early years can prevent drowning. Still, too many people drown daily due to the lack of knowledge of water safety. Creating joy for water means being safe in, around, and near water.
More about Bianca Riel
Bianca Riel started her passion for teaching swimming and drowning prevention in September 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is a member of the Malaysian Swimming Teacher Association, where she got her British STA Award in Teaching Swimming certificate. She quickly had private swimming clients (4 to 50 years old), but realized, that quality needs to be assessed and learned from a pro. She joined June 2018 Finns Boutique Swim Centre with Bryan Yap (30 years of experience) as her mentor and guide to teach quality swimming. Their philosophy is to create “JOY OF LEARNING” in water, through the child's cognitive and physical development, as well as social emotion enrichment.
Robert Strauss from Miami became one of her other guru for safe, fun and quality teaching and learned a lot in the past years since they met January 2019. During the lockdown in March 2019, she emphasized more on Drowning Prevention and Water Safety as everyone was at home. She created “Drowning Awareness South East Asia” to bring more awareness about this topic to swimming schools, teachers, parents, and children. Bianca helped her clients to overcome their fear of water and love of being in the water again.
Since 2021 she is a full-time mum, teaching her baby water competence and joy of water and educating other parents about water safety and drowning prevention.