Hello Magazine: Benefits
The benefits of swimming for children and parents
Swimming is widely recognised as one of the most beneficial sports, but teaching your child to swim can be difficult, especially if he or she is uncomfortable in water. One way to prevent this is to introduce them to being in the water at an early age, as babies can begin parent-child swim lessons when they are only a few months old.
Still, in the study Swimming for Babies, physiotherapist Antonio Bretones Fernández (http://www.efisioterapia.net), concludes, “It’s best to wait until the fourth month, since, at that time, the baby’s immune system has finished developing, and the possibility for colds and infections like otitis is significantly reduced.”
As the infants are still very small and have not fully developed their physical capacities, it is impossible for them to learn to swim like adults.
The same study reveals that “babies at this age are still unable to do all the exercises of the program, but they learn quickly.”
Parent-child swim lessons are playful, allowing the babies to learn to relax and enjoy themselves while increasing their sense of security and independence in the water.
Several studies have shown that “babies who have been swimming during the first two years of their lives develop a greater sense of their surroundings, and thus are already learning to be more creative and observant.”
Additionally, experiences in water allow little ones to better develop their psychomotor skills, because there they can move more freely and begin to understand concepts of distance and movement.
The cardio-respiratory system is also strengthened as the baby exercises his or her heart and lungs.
There are psychological benefits, too. Swimming lessons help babies become more confident and provide them with a sense of relaxation, while the experience also contributes to their socialisation as they pass time in an environment filled with people. Their bonds with parents even grows stronger as together they share new and rewarding experiences.
Choosing a pool
Once parents decide to take their little ones to the pool, it’s important to choose a site that is suited for the activity.
The water temperature should be no less than 32 degrees celsius, while chlorine levels should be between 0.5 and 0.6 per cent. It’s important that the pool be well treated to avoid any possible infections.
The surrounding of the pool must also be adequate for children. Toys, mats, balls and music help create a nice environment that motivates the baby to take part in activities.
Another factor to consider is cleanliness. The pool area and changing rooms should be well equipped and hygienic.
And if the two are far away from each other, parents will have to dry and cover up their children, to avoid catching cold while walking from the pool to the changing area.
A pool that meets these conditions is ideal for a baby to experience everything the water has to offer. As Antonio Bretones Fernández says, in such an environment “the baby will be comfortable and won’t have any problem pleasantly participating in the class.”
Source: Hello Magazine
Why Should My Baby Learn to Swim?
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 infant’s 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.
Source: swim school bob
Water babies 'have better balance and grasping skills' than non-swimmers
Teaching babies to swim from just a few months old helps them to develop impressive physical skills later in life.
A university study found baby swimmers balance better and grasped objects more easily than non-swimmers.
This difference persists even when children are five years old, according to the research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Three-month-old babies can hold a standing balanced position in the water, scientists reported
Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson from NTNU and Professor Brian Hopkins from Lancaster University, compared 19 baby swimmers against a control group of 19 children who had not participated in baby swimming.
The only factor that separated baby swimmers from the control group was swimming. All other factors, such as the parents’ education and economic status, were the same.
The baby swimmers had participated in swimming classes for two hours a week from the age of 2-3 months until they were about 7 months old.
A typical session might involve helping the baby do a somersault on a floating mat, having the baby dive under water, jump from the pool edge, and balance on the hand of a parent while reaching to pick up floating objects.
When they were five the two groups were tested with a number of exercises such as balancing on one foot, skipping rope and catching a beanbag.
The researchers said the results were startling.
‘We saw very clearly that baby swimmers were the best in exercises that related to balance and the ability to reach for things,’ says Professor Sigmundsson.
Professor Sigmundsson says he was simply overwhelmed by what the instructor was able to get the babies to do.
‘The instructor was able to bring three-month-old babies right up to a balanced position, standing on his palm. The babies locked joints – it was amazing to watch,’ he said.
He believes that the survey shows that specific training in young children gives results.
‘It’s incredibly exciting that specific training for young babies has an effect later in life. Development is a dynamic interplay between maturation, growth, experience and learning.
‘Our study shows that we must never underestimate the learning aspect.’
The study was published in the May 2010 issue of Child: Care Health and Development.
Source: mail online
Infant swimming lessons can help babies socialise, gain water confidence and learn other skills useful both in and out the pool. Lucy Atkins reports
When two-year-old Elizabeth Jelley fell into the family swimming pool she managed to right herself, swim to the edge and hold on to the side. She spent about four minutes alone in the 4ft-deep pool while her mother, Amanda, was searching for her. Amanda, from Merseyside, found Elizabeth clinging to the side of the pool and calling her. She is convinced her toddler survived because of the swimming lessons she had had since she was eight months old. “Most children drown because they panic when they fall into water,” says Jess Thompson, founder of Water Babies, a nationwide company that provides infant swimming lessons. “We teach children to become familiar with water.”
More parents than ever before are enrolling their infants – some at just a few days old – in swimming classes. A 2007 survey by the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA) showed an 84% increase in the number of babies under the age of two having swimming lessons over the previous two years. They estimate that more than 300,000 babies and toddlers in the UK are now taking classes.
Billed as a way for infants to gain water confidence, meet other babies and have some fun, swimming lessons, like most baby-centric activities, can be pricey, not to mention time consuming. Is it really worth it?
Suzanne Matthews, an educational consultant from St Helen’s, Merseyside whose son Simeon took a swimming course recently, says the benefits have been a huge surprise. “I never would have believed I would watch my nine-month-old swim up from underwater by himself, take hold of the side of the pool and support his head out of water,” she says. “The skills we have developed have been incredibly useful outside the pool too. We can wash his hair in the bath without getting soap in his eyes using the word-association commands, and after learning the command to hold on in the pool he understood the same command on land.” Thompson says there are more subtle effects, too. “Most of our clients are first-time mums, who can be nervous. Having skin-to-skin contact with their baby, with an experienced instructor taking responsibility and offering guidance, is invaluable. You really see that confidence transfer itself on to dry land.”
Classes can range from simple, relatively unstructured splashing around to more organised training schedules. In the latter, parents might learn how to hold a baby in the water without letting them drink it, and how to help them get used to lying on their backs. As the babies grow more agile they learn to “monkey monkey” along the side – cling on and move around on their own. “It’s fantastic, seeing a line of tiny babies, all supporting themselves on the rail completely independently,” says Thompson. They can also learn to swim through hoops, walk over wobbly rafts, use long swimming floats as horses, and even learn to “holiday swim” – hold on to their parent’s back as they dive down and glide along the bottom of the pool.
Up to the age of about 18 months, a baby’s epiglottis will automatically close over and block the throat when it is submerged in water. According to Ian McKinley, a paediatrician at Manchester children’s hospital, this means that a properly supervised baby can be safely allowed to go under the water for short periods (for up to half a minute). However, some baby swimming experts fear that this involuntary action – sometimes known as the “gag reflex” or the “dive reflex” – is being misused by untrained teachers. “The slam-dunk effect is still going strong,” says Thompson. “There are teachers who put babies under the water willy-nilly.” This may be dangerous, not to mention traumatic for the baby. Good instructors place the emphasis on teaching babies to hold her breath and go under the water voluntarily – if pushed, they may develop new fears rather than gain confidence. Ann Hawley, who trains baby swimming teachers, agrees. She operates a five-second rule: never allow a baby’s face to be submerged for more than five seconds.
Some parenting websites advise waiting until your baby has had its first bout of immunisations (at two months) before setting foot in a public pool. However, says McKinley, “it is perfectly safe to take a baby swimming before their jabs, providing the water is warm enough – at least 32C for a baby under 12 weeks old or under 12lb, and 30C for a baby over 12 weeks or 12lb”. A baby’s early vaccinations protect against infections such as diphtheria, pertussis and HiB (Haemophilus influenzae type B). “These are transmitted in the air, so swimming pools do not carry a greater risk of infection than anywhere else,” he says. Most public baths, however, are too cold for a small baby, unless there is a hydrotherapy pool. But, says Thompson, you can buy wetsuits even for tiny babies (try splashabout.net) which can keep a baby warm enough for short periods.
The real problem, says Hawley, is the lack of regulation. At present, she says, anyone who fancies being a baby swimming teacher can set themselves up as one. Hawley has just launched a campaign supported by the STA and Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to regulate baby swimming and ensure that all teachers are properly qualified.
It is worth seeking out good teachers, says Matthews: “Swimming is such a positive experience for Simeon that singing the swimming songs to him calms his tears out of the pool, too.”
Source: The Guardian
Water For Life
WITH DROWNING BELIEVED TO BE THE THIRD MOST COMMON CAUSE OF ACCIDENTAL DEATH IN CHILDREN, TEACHING A CHILD AS YOUNG AS POSSIBLE IS VITAL
We can’t all be Michael Phelps nor, perhaps, would many of us strive to be but safety and confidence in water is something that perhaps every child should learn – a life-saving tool at the very least but also a way to keep fit and have fun.
Paula Hickman started swimming at the age of 3, joining her older brother in swimming classes. Whilst Paula competed until she was 16, her brother, James Hickman, continued on the international stage, becoming a 5 times World Record Holder, Commonwealth Gold Medallist and Olympian.
Paula did a sidestep into film and television but on the birth of her daughter got back into the pool and now specializes in teaching young children to enjoy swimming through water confidence courses which flow in harmony with the child’s body and brain development:
So, what is water confidence?
Water confidence is based on safety as a priority. With drowning believed to be the third most common cause of accidental death in children, teaching a child as young as possible is vital. Through specially designed techniques which help the child relax and breathe properly, children are helped to develop survival skills without the added tension of them feeling in danger, or abandoned, as they learn. For example, children are taught skills such as what to do with air: blowing bubbles rather than inhaling water.
How does water confidence help development?
3D environments in water are created through games. This freedom of buoyancy and independence for small children is a welcome break from playing on dry land where gravity makes exercise harder. In the swimming pool, by moving freely, they can develop their arms and leg muscles, learn to cross over their midline – where their right arm crosses over the left hand side of their body – and start to feel balance; all key elements for early years motor development.
This is approached through gentle, natural play which builds confidence. The children learn incidentally rather than through a formal process of teaching kicking and paddling. By playing games, they pick this up without too much thinking. Circuit games, making the pool like a playground with activities in each corner, using the bottom of the pool, jumping off the side and turning big foam mats into slides are all ways to build confidence and skills.
In the swimming pool, by moving freely, they can develop their arms and leg muscles
Children also learn to socialize with other children and adults in a calm world away from the stresses of real life. This is where fathers’ involvement can also come into play, believes Paula: “It gives dads an opportunity for “skin on skin” bonding with their child, something that mothers usually get more of a chance to experience. It is often the case that dads are more chilled out and are up for playing a bit more and letting their kids go a bit further than mums.”
But what if, as a parent, you fear water yourself or are scared for your child?
“Parents who themselves are scared of water but don’t want to pass on their fears and who want their children to be confident safe swimmers can also benefit from the classes and gaining water confidence.”
Paula Hickman frequently finds one or two parents in a class who are not confident – she gives them homework too – “putting their face in water in a salad bowl and blowing out bubbles into the bowl.”
What about the “dunking technique” or submergence?
There continues to be some debate with regards to forced submergence of babies and toddlers. A number of schools see submergence as a priority for teaching. Paula believes the focus should not be entirely on submergence – some kids love it and take to it immediately but there are certain risks to consider – potentially damaging the relationship between parent and child or child and water: “When the child feels confident and in control they will submerge of their own free will.”
Swimming in the Amazon?
These theories are very much in harmony with the work of Françoise Freedman, who, through her Birthlight Trust, an educational charity set up in Cambridge, has developed practices inspired by yoga and the natural swimming style seen in Amazonian tribes. Whilst undertaking anthropological fieldwork in the Amazon, Françoise saw how Amazonian children learnt to swim in the rivers. Learning was easy and babies rarely cried. Babies were trained to hold on to their parents and swim towards them, being picked up before they got distressed so the experience was fun and easy.
Françoise explains the success of this method: “Relaxed holding is developed so that babies gain an increasing sense of security and freedom in their own time until they are ready to take off away from the parents’ arms, preferably without swimming aids but with the use of buoyancy supports such as short foam woggles. From the start, parents are guided to hold their babies as little as possible and particular techniques have been developed to this effect.”
“Relaxed holding is developed so that babies gain an increasing sense of security and freedom in their own time until they are ready to take off away from the parents’ arms”
The integration of “movement, rhythm, eye contact, speech and song” while babies are held in water is encouraged. It is helpful if parents are immersed and on the same eye level with their babies. She explains: “Front rides where you swim on your back with your baby on your chest are the first stage followed by back rides where babies cling to their parent’s backs while they swim breast-stroke. This then leads to seal dives in which parents with their babies on their backs swim freely and take dives.
Transition to voluntary kicking and using the arms is an important stage from the end of the first year onwards so special games have been developed for the transition period and keep interaction between parent and child.”
Paula Hickman strongly believes that gentle encouragement is the key rather than forcing children beyond their will. So, her beliefs sit very well with those of Françoise Freedman. The children learn incidentally rather than through a formal process of teaching kicking and paddling. By playing games, they pick this up without too much thinking.
She passes on her belief in her articles advising swim teachers: “We are in a very special and responsible position as Baby and pre-school swim teachers, as we are sharing with babies & children some of their very first water experiences. Surely, our desired outcome is for the child to experience a feeling of confidence, freedom and harmony in the water. We have plenty of time to achieve this. There is no hurry. If we go too fast, especially with introducing lots of forced underwater experiences, we are at risk of inducing a feeling of fear or abandonment. If we look back, this is the opposite of our desired outcome.
The diving reflex definitely occurs when we put a child under the water. We have witnessed it many times. However, it is a reflex to survive. It is a response to oxygen deprivation. In other areas of life we do not desire to put our babies in situations that elicit survival reflexes very frequently. We must remember that we have a great deal of time for the baby to choose to have this experience . . . and when they do, surely they are more ready. Freedom of choice.”
Splash About’s Top 10 Tips for Baby Swimming
1. Firstly make sure you have a qualified Baby swim teacher, there are many excellent schools and teachers around. You can search the internet for a school near you or look on www.splashabout.com for a list of teachers in the UK.
2. Relax, this is a bonding time for you and your baby, something you will remember all your life and a great start for your little one.
3. Make sure you are swimming in a warm, clean pool. The pool should be at least 31° and all babies and toddlers still using nappies should be wearing good swim nappies.
4. Never take your baby in the pool if they are unwell – or if you are. It won’t be a happy time and you are risking your baby’s, as well as other people’s, health.
5. If the water is cooler, or if in a warm pool your baby is chilly, use one of the great Warm in Water mini wetsuits available. Also helps eliminate the pool to changing room shivers!
6. Smile, smile, smile at your baby, keep eye contact, praise her!
7. Make sure the school you swim with is properly insured.
8. Never make the mistake of using a normal disposable nappy, they absorb and hold the water, weighing baby down. If you are going to use disposable nappies use one especially for swimming, they are available at all good supermarkets and some nursery stores.
9. Don’t ever try and immerse your baby without proper instruction! The beautiful photographs you see of under water babies are always taken AFTER a swimming course is completed and with trained teachers in full control. Please never attempt to do it yourself.
10. A love of water is a gift for life, play and have fun, even in the bath. There are lots of books and DVDs with ideas of water games to help your little one enjoy and be comfortable in water. You will be the expert with your baby and make your own games together!
The Benefits of Baby and Infant Swimming
Benefits of baby and infant swimming are varied and include safety, health and development, bonding and psychological benefits.
Drowning is the second greatest cause of accidental death in industrialised countries. In excess of 50% of cases actually occur close to the waters edge. Infant swimming cannot guarantee to safeguard against drowning, but your little one has a much improved chance of survival if familiarity with water allows them to be relaxed in case of an accidental fall into water.
During our sessions your little one will learn to hold their breath, hold on at the side, turn in the water, and after entering the water come back to the side – essential skills that could one day save their life.
Toddlers are at risk of becoming over confident. When little ones begin to swim unaided more caution is needed to prevent an accident from occurring.
Health & Development
Baby swimming makes an early start to an active lifestyle. Swimming enables little ones to exercise muscle groups that are otherwise restricted by their inability to sit up, stand or walk. It can also help respiratory functions.
Babies that take part in baby swimming programmes are thought to be healthier and happier. Research shows that early swimmers perform better on tests measuring social, academic, motor and personality developments.
The aquatic environment delivers a multi-sensory stimulation. Both the physical contact and eye contact with parents also gives quality stimulation. This can be more so invaluable for premature or special needs babies.
The whole experience enables you and your little one to spend time together and may help consolidate the bonding process.
The more you put into your swim session the more you will see both you and your baby benefit.
Often parents / carers who come along to the swim session have fear of water themselves that they do not want their little one to have, spending time in the a water in a nurturing and fun environment may help you yourself become more confident.
Baby swimming can encourage your little one to feel both independent and self-confident as they discover how to move unaided, for short distances, through the water. This then in turn, develops a toddler who is so very keen to show-off their skills!
As your sessions progress, and you develop new skills, you will find both you and your little becoming more confident with each other in the water world.