Short answer. Because you only want the best for your children. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, back in 1998. My biggest fear was that once he was born, I wouldn’t be able to keep him alive. Now, I can look back on that and laugh, but at the time, I was seriously nervous in particular about SIDS. I couldn’t wait for him to reach his first birthday so he wouldn’t be at risk anymore.
And it wasn’t just SIDS that had me concerned; it was me in general and my lack of ability as a parent to be. Before parenthood, I had little to no experience with babies. My Father-in-law had to teach me how to change a diaper, and the one time that I babysat an infant was when I was 16-years-old. I had to get my mom to come over and help me because the baby woke up crying.
I had no idea what to do. I had no business babysitting an infant. I wouldn’t have done it except that I got talked into it. When I moved into the neighborhood, all the parents with young children were excited because there was finally someone on the block old enough to babysit. They just assumed I knew what I was doing based on my age.
Boy, were they wrong. So, when the time came to plan for a family, I read everything in sight – all the What to Expect books plus a whole lot more. I wanted to be so prepared, and I remember even thinking that I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I was so naive. There is no way not to make mistakes. Especially when it comes to child-rearing.
Luckily I married the perfect guy. He’s the oldest in his family. Twelve and fourteen years older than his sisters. He practically raised them himself since both his parents had busy careers. His sisters, to this day, call him Brother. They can’t call him by his first name, Ross. It would be like calling your mom or dad by their first names. Even our niece and nephew call him Uncle Brother.
So now, I’m starting to feel pretty good. I have a sound support system in place. I’m feeling well prepared with all the textbooks under my belt and the perfect hubby to guide me through motherhood.
If you’re a parent, you probably feel the same as I do and want only the best for your children. So you work at being the best parent you can by starting from the day you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. You prepare them for the world from the moment you meet them.
Everything you do for your baby leads up to them becoming an independent person. As they develop, they become more mobile. They can walk, climb, run, skip, hop, jump, among many other physical skills on land. You don’t think twice about preparing your baby for the world on dry land. But what about water? Why would you neglect water?
Here’re MY 10 reasons to the question, “why baby swimming lessons?”
1. Our world is mostly water
In fact, 71% of the earth’s surface consists of the stuff. Learning to navigate the waters should be as high a priority as learning how to get around on land. Everybody should have the ability to be mobile in water. If your child trips and falls on a dry surface from the ground, there is likely no chance of losing their lives from a stumble like that.
When you add a swimming pool filled with water into the equation, then losing a life becomes more likely. If your child hasn’t learned how to roll over or swim to safety, whether it be an adult, a wall, the steps, or a floating object, they will likely drown.
2. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death among children between the ages of one and four
Most of these drownings happen in backyard pools and even in some cases where one or both parents were present. Pools, spas, ponds, and other backyard water features aren’t the only death traps that should concern you. Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. These drownings typically occur in bathtubs, toilets, buckets, puddles, to name a few.
3. It’s easier to introduce a baby to water than an older child
It’s easy to teach babies to develop love and respect for water. And that’s just it. It’s about love and respect, not fear. Babies must be exposed to water from the day they enter this world. It’s much easier to introduce an infant to the water than an older child. Babies don’t know to fear anything yet and especially not water. In the first nine months of their lives, they were immersed in liquid, and it is for this reason that you must continue to expose them to it since they’re already used to it.
4. With early exposure, your child will never develop a fear of water
Several years before I became a swim instructor, my husband, Ross, and I gave one of the first baths ever to our son, Ethan. At one point, Ross poured the water over his head, and I was taken aback by the dumping of the water over his head and down his face, covering his eyes, nose, and mouth for what seemed like an eternity, but probably lasted two seconds, to be honest.
Ross said, “don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt him.”
He seemed very confident in his statement, and I trusted him. I was right to trust him. Our son never developed a fear of water on the face. So, learning how to swim was second nature to him.
Learn how to prepare your baby 0 to 8 months for swim lessons. Everything you teach your baby takes place in the bathtub. You will learn how to condition your baby to hold their breath, prepare them for back floating, and encourage independence. If you do this for your baby, they will never develop a fear of water on the face, and swimming lessons will be a breeze.
5. Without early exposure, your child will likely need to overcome their water anxiety before learning to swim
Most of my new students, between the ages of two and even as old as nine years, spend several to many lessons with me just getting comfortable holding their breath and putting their faces in the water. These kids didn’t have early exposure to water and were possibly even told to fear it or their parents unwittingly passed on their fears.
6. Swimming is a life skill and therefore must be part of your baby’s general learning
I implore you to give your child the best of both worlds, land, and water when teaching them life lessons. You wouldn’t dream of keeping your child from learning how to get around on land by not allowing them to learn how to roll over, crawl, walk, or climb. So, why would you prevent them from learning how to be mobile in the water?
Giving them the gift of swimming lessons gives your baby a fighting chance to make it to safety if they were to fall into a pool. It will probably happen that your child will fall into a pool, whether by accident or a purposeful push. It happened to my son and many of my students’ parents telling me similar stories. So equip them with the skills.
7. The ability to swim considerably reduces the risk of drowning
It doesn’t, however, make your child drown-proof. In fact, no one is drown-proof. But participation in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in the 1 to 4-year-old age group.
8. Swimming lessons make your baby smarter
- Babies learn through their senses, and swimming lessons provide a multitude of opportunities for sensory play. This sensory stimulation supports healthy brain growth and development. It causes synapse growth and the strengthening of existing synaptic connections. On the other hand, the child who receives less sensory stimuli receives reduced synapse growth, and therefore fewer connections are made in the brain.
- Also, the bonding in a parent/child swim program increases cognitive and social development.
- And finally, the cross-patterning movements, crossing the midline of the body, using the upper and lower body, or right and left side separately, which is so prevalent in swimming, can heighten cognition and ease of learning. Children who learned to swim by five years of age had statistically higher IQs.
9. Physical benefits of baby swimming lessons
- It strengthens the baby’s muscles as they kick their legs and paddle against the water’s resistance.
- It improves heart and lung function as the body learns to use oxygen more efficiently.
- Your baby’s vestibular system is positively affected. This system is part of the inner ear that controls balance and recognizes motion, head position, and spatial orientation. A typical swimming lesson provides a good dose of vestibular stimulation, benefiting your baby with increased balance.
- And finally, kicking and paddling require a cross-patterning action, which contributes to enhanced coordination in your child.
10. Improves sleep and appetite
The physical activity that derives from a swim lesson increases the baby’s appetite and puts the baby to sleep like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I hear about it all the time from the parents of my infant students. They tell me how they’re blown away by how much better their baby sleeps the day of a swim lesson.
Water safety tips to further reduce the risk of drowning
Supervision is essential. All children, whether they can swim or not (outfit non-swimmers with life jackets), should be strictly supervised in and around water.
To supervise properly, assign a water watcher and share the responsibility with other responsible adults, alternating every 15-minutes. A water watcher must know how to swim in case a rescue is necessary. They can’t be drinking or looking at their phones. They must actively watch the children in and around the pool. Drowning happens silently and quickly (less than five minutes), so this means that the water watcher must never take their eyes off the swimmers. Not even for a second.
And in some cases, depending on the child’s age and ability, they will need more than just a water watcher. Adults must stay within arms reach of such children even if they’re wearing a life jacket.
Also, fence pools and spas with adequate barriers, including four-sided fencing, learn swimming and water safety survival skills, and never swim alone.
It’s a commitment to make sure your child can swim well
Swimming lessons should be ongoing, just like teaching babies on land. You don’t take a break from educating your baby on all the essential dryland life skills, why should you take a break from teaching them to be mobile in the water.
The sooner they’ve enrolled in lessons, the better chance they have of not becoming a statistic, but only if you keep them enrolled year-round. It’s okay to take a short break for a month or two. If it’s too long a break, they will either forget what they learned or lose confidence.
I’ve seen it happen, even with children that had previously been enrolled in self-rescue type lessons (ISR – Infant Swimming Resource). Whether you choose self-rescue type classes or regular swimming lessons, it should be a priority. However, I wouldn’t recommend ISR. The parent is not involved in this type of program, so there’s no chance to bond with your little one.
Choose a program where you can bond with your baby
Bonding with your baby is crucial for their cognitive and social development. So, choose a parent/tot swim program that teaches without force and makes it a priority to develop a love and respect for water. One that allows the child to progress at their own pace and learn the difference between deep and shallow water, making it less likely that they would put themselves at risk.
This type of program is an enjoyable parent/child bonding experience that builds confidence, improves self-esteem, and will fill you and your child with beautiful lifelong memories.
When to start
Begin your baby’s journey to water competency as soon as your baby is old enough for the program of your choosing. The starting age varies from one swim school to the next. You’ll find most schools offer parent/tot lessons from anywhere between six weeks and six months of age.
When to stop
Hopefully, your child will choose to make swimming a part of their lives for life and enjoy the multiple health benefits. In any case, you should keep your child enrolled in lessons until they can easily swim a distance of at least 25 yards. Twenty-five yards is the official distance that considers a swimmer safer in the water. I say “safer,” not “safe,” because safe implies drown-proof, and to revisit, no one is drown-proof.
There’s no denying how much your baby will benefit from swimming lessons. I hope you take the plunge with your little one and choose to do it sooner rather than later because:
- It’s easier to acclimate a baby to the water than an older child.
- With early exposure to water, children learn to respect it and not fear it making it less likely that they would put themselves at risk.
- Year-round swimming lessons give your baby the skills and a fighting chance to make it to safety if they were to fall into a pool.
- Knowing how to swim is a life skill and must be part of your baby’s general learning.
- Swimming lessons make your baby smarter, physically stronger, and healthier.
- It also builds confidence and improves self-esteem.
- And finally, don’t forget the icing on the cake, water babies sleep better, which means you can catch up on your sleep.