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Baby Swimming: What is the difference between baby swimming and an aquatic leisure time programme...

Leisure time for parents and children in the water from the earliest age is a boon for the whole family, but that is not baby swimming. Excuse me!? How’s that? It’s a quality time mom and dad spend with their baby in the water with possibly some relaxing music, but that’s not baby swimming. So, what is baby swimming then? What is the difference between baby swimming and leisure time spent with the baby in the water?

First of all, baby swimming involves professional supervision. But I’m not talking about the supervision of a swim coach who has the experience of working in a swimming school with children over the age of three, standing at the edge of the pool while the babies are enjoying their time in the pool with their parents. It is the engagement of a licensed swimming coach, primarily a water pedagogue, who has experience in working with babies and their parents in the water.

Why do I point this out? It’s not an easy task to have a baby who is 4, 6, 8, 12 months or older in the pool. Not to mention having a mom with two-month-old twins showing up at the door, as paediatricians had recommended baby swimming as a form of therapy. Or when parents are terrified by the fact that they even have a baby, let alone hold the baby in the pool or having to play with the baby in the water ... Also, not all babies "fall in love" with the water at first sight ... there are those who cry through the first month, either being in or out of the water.

Teaching children how to swim is a great responsibility, and it is even greater to teach babies, future swimmers, to relax and love the water, and to educate parents about all the benefits of baby swimming.

Parents are there to help, of course. They are actually the first real baby "swimming" instructors. But, except for cuddling with the baby in the water, it is recommended that the parents work under the supervision of a baby swim expert.

Secondly, baby swimming is much more than just spending time with the baby in the water. Programmes for parents to only have fun with their baby in the water from an early age are useful, but they are not baby swimming, nor do they resemble a baby swim programme. In baby swim lessons, they learn while playing: how to keep the baby's head in the water properly, on the surface of the water, how to float, make bubbles and immerse the face, how to turn slightly to one side or the other, tap with their feet, go underwater to eventually and gradually dive, etc. It may sound very easy to someone! That's right. It is easy when you know what to do and how to do it with babies in the water while playing, but only with professional supervision.

Baby swimming is an unforgettable experience. However, baby swimming is also the most sensitive part of swimming. If "mistakes" are made in the water at the very beginning, that experience can cause fear both in parents and their baby.

Thirdly, baby swimming is a skill as pretentious as it may sound, unlike pure parenting with a baby in the water. It is a specially designed programme, with goals for each class individually, in order to reach the final goal which is a relaxed baby, who has respect for the aquatic environment, but who is not afraid of it and knows how to enjoy it. The baby who knows how to hold his/her breath at the moment of diving and who has developed movement skills in the water environment, through many well-known "water polygons" and obstacles. He/she knows how to use floating props to learn to swim, in order to move more easily through the water and acquire the proper position of the body in the water…

Fourthly, baby swimming is also learning how to "swim" with songs and playing, as opposed to leisure time that parents spend with the baby in the water. Every song that is learnt and played and hummed in the water has the aim to teach special elements and skills which babies acquire in the water. In that way, with pleasant emotions, babies want to learn and acquire new skills that remain in their heads as a pleasant memory and are not easily forgotten. Accompanied by their parents, babies move through the water to the most familiar melody and with a smile on their face, and fulfil all their "tasks" without showing any resistance. Many moves and movement elements that babies still cannot make on the dry, as they are not motorically mature enough yet, they can make in the water for the first time.

Fifthly. Baby swimming is not a survival and rescue programme in the water! When I say this, I have in mind aggressive methods of teaching children through the stressful experience to save themselves from drowning, by consciously putting them in a drowning situation that can happen, but we must not forget that we do not want this to happen to our child! So why are we forcing a baby and putting him/her in such a stressful life situation so early? To teach him/her to be saved!? Do you really think that this is the way to go to make the child love the aquatic environment!?

In baby swimming, we also learn the rules of behaviour at the pool and what can happen if we do not follow them. We teach them not to approach the pool closer than a safe distance when they are alone. We teach them to love the water and at the same time respect it from an early age.

If there is no adequate baby swimming instructor in your area, nor is there a baby swimming school nearby, that’s not a reason not to spend some time with your baby in the water whenever you have that opportunity. The most important thing is that the parents and the baby stay in contact with the water together for as long as possible, because in that way they develop positive emotions, even in those aquatic leisure time programmes for parents and their babies.


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