Teaching your infant to swim is not only about safety!
Many parents are compelled to explore the option of infant swim lessons as a direct result of the fear they have as parents of their child drowning in a family or neighbor’s pool. They don’t want to be another statistic – another family on the evening news, saying that it happened so fast, that the child was only out of sight for a short time, that they didn’t even think to check the pool because it was fenced. The reality is that if fear is the motivating factor for choosing swim lessons, parents would be better-served to go out in the back yard and check the gate and locks on their pool. A secure pool is the single best way to protect your child from the risk of drowning, and this risk is further decreased with proper supervision. So make sure your pool is secure and always watch your kid around water – they are two critical steps everyone can take to prevent childhood drownings.
One might ask, as the owner of two swim schools, why on Earth would this be the advice I would give? If fear is no longer the motivating factor, why else would should parents enroll their children in swim lessons, especially infants in swim lessons?
My answer to parents is that there is an infinite list of benefits infants receive from swimming lessons beyond learning to swim. This is part one in a series of reasons why I strongly believe in putting infants in swimming lessons.
If not for safety reasons, why should I choose to participate in swim lessons with my one year old, or even my six month old? I believe exposing your infant to the water at a young age you are setting them on a path to positive development. By that do I mean you will be raising a more intelligent child or one who is a better athlete than the child who is not exposed to water at an early age? YES! Do I believe that an incredible amount of bonding can be achieved in the water? YES! Do I believe a child will gain new cognitive and physical skills by being exposed to the water? YES!
I’m a big fan of Dr. Jill Stamm, a PhD and parent whose daughter was born almost four months premature and was never expected to walk or talk. Her daughter is now a fully-functioning, normal adult, and Dr. Stamm’s experience illustrates that every baby’s brain has limitless potential. In her book, Bright From the Start, she makes some very interesting points about infants and brain development:
“An infants’ brain is a fertile feed for stimulation and much of the brains pathways and connections are developed before their third birthday. This places a huge importance on the auditory (voice), visual (colors) emotional (hugs), intellectual (music) and physical (swimming) opportunities we present to our children.”
How does swimming fit into this arena? Infants spend much of their time in a prone position before they can walk or crawl. They lay on their bellies or backs or are being held by someone or more frequently today are encased in plastic car seats or carriers. When we place an infant in the water they begin to develop skills related to floating in a supportive yet fluid environment - similar to their time in the womb. They are stimulated by the water and their parent’s hands. They learn breath control and balance and buoyancy. They stimulate those synaptical neurons in their brain. They may not be able to walk or run or even sit up but with appropriate stimulation that can float through and under the water while holding their breath. The time bonding with a parent in warm water is also amazing!
So in your journey to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child child, get them in the water either at home in the tub, or the shower, or in your backyard pool for fun play time or in formal swim lessons. And if you need a reason other than fun, think about all of the physical and emotional benefits they receive by returning to that aquatic world where they spent those nine months.