Sunday, 17 May 2015

Swimming tips for little ones

Recently we were lucky enough to be sent a "Swim Fin" to use and review. If you've never heard of them this is what one is:
A boy shark!

Developed by a swimming teacher, you wear it on your back instead of armbands/buoyancy suit and it keeps your body in a more horizontal (and much more 'natural' position) when swimming. And it makes you look like a shark - AMAZING!

Shark attack!!

So far we've had lots of fun wearing it around the house (yes, it will even fit an adult!) and the 8 year old insisted on wearing it all through lunch one day... Even Iz got in on the action :)

Baby shark :)

Next week we're taking it to our local swimming pool (I haven't felt brave enough to take both D and Iz on my own yet so we're having to wait til OH has a day off) and so will post a review of it "in action" then. In the meantime here are some of my top swimming tips that might be useful for anyone wondering how to start swimming with their little ones:

1. Start young
Both of mine started lessons at 6 weeks and we've never had any problems with being scared of water/not wanting to go etc. It was also a lovely sociable activity for me to go to, meet other mums and get out of the house even on my most knackered days. It's incredible when you look back and realise your tiny 2 month old who couldn't reach for an object or even acknowledge the ball during playtime is now a 6 month old who is happy to swim underwater, will make a valiant effort to hold on to the side without your help and laughs hysterically with glee whenever the ball comes out to play :)

2. Make it fun
Everyone develops at their own pace and the most important thing is to keep it fun. There's no point in pushing your baby if they're teething or have a stinking cold (and a screaming baby's screams are *even* louder when echoing round a pool!!) so keep it fun. Most swimming classes incorporate nursery rhymes into different activities (eg Humpty Dumpty when they fall in from the side) which is also easy to do when you're swimming on your own with them. And there are loads of fun things you can do in the water - D's favourite is "Jelly on a plate" when he sits on a mat and we wobble it until he falls in :)

3. Use bath time as an extension
There are lots of things you can do in the bath which help prepare babies for getting in the pool. From "showering" them with water over their head (getting them used to water over their face and letting them practice closing their eyes/holding their breath) to blowing bubbles (laying foundation for effective breathing techniques as they get older), the bath is a great place to cement any new skills they're working on.

4. Be confident
Even if you're not the most confident swimmer don't let your fear show. Obviously stay in the shallow end and work within your limits but let your kids see that swimming is fun and not scary.

5. Be organised
The first time I took D swimming he was 6 weeks old and I think it took me (no exaggeration!) 30 minutes to get us both ready for swimming! But now I can get us both undressed and dressed in under 5 minutes, whilst also wrestling a baby :) make sure you always take 2 swim nappies (in case of a just-before-you-get-in-the-pool poop) and don't forget a regular nappy for after. We like to use hooded towels for swimming as you can wrap them up super snug, including their wet hair, even if the changing rooms are drafty. Don't forget to also take a plastic bag to put your wet things in. And a snack and a drink for afterwards will usually buy you a few minutes peace to get changed yourself - swimming is be pretty energetic and tiring for little ones, even if it doesn't look like they've done much!


I also asked Laura Sevenus (an ex-competitive swimmer in South Africa, author of “Practically Swimming” and founder of the Sevenus Swimming School in London) how do you know when your baby is ready to start swimming lessons. Here are her top tips:
  • Each child will have his or her own individual personality and sensory thresh hold so don’t push too much or too soon. Babies require time, nurturing and gentleness in order to flourish and learn.
  • There is no rush.  Whether your baby starts swimming lessons at 3 or 6 months, it will make no difference to their ability to swim independently at 2-3 years old. 
  • Bonding is the result of true communication between parent and baby.  Your baby will let you know how he/she is feeling with body language. Learn to read your baby’s signs and then respond to what is being conveyed.
  • If the water feels cool to you, your baby will feel the same but just may not be able to tell you. Heat is lost through your baby’s head therefore it is not a good idea to submerge your baby’s head if the water temperature is on the cool side.
  • If parents have missed the opportunity to take their children swimming as babies, 4 years is a good age to begin lessons. A child will have more understanding then and will take instruction readily. They will have learnt to reason by this stage and are generally keen to attempt anything. If left longer than this age, he or she may start becoming self-conscious of the fact they are unable to swim and then more psychology will have to be employed.
  • Parents can do so much in building water confidence by allowing their children to play in the bath under supervision. Babies love to be floated in a deep bath of water. Toddlers love sitting and play water pouring with containers. Make bath time fun and without rushing – but of course always with adult supervision!

Laura is currently based in London where she runs the Baby Spa (which we loved when D and Iz were younger - you can read why here). Babies as young as 2 days swim there and after a few months when they are ready they can move on to more formal swimming lessons at the Laura Sevenus Swimming school.


Do you swim with your little ones? Do you have any other top tips for parents? Add them below if you do - I'd love to share them :)


  1. I take two towels for my 2.5 year old. One to wrap around her as soon as we get out, and one to put on her once we've got to the changing room (when the other is cold and soaking wet).
    Always take 2 swim nappies. A snack to keep her busy whilst I get dry & dressed.
    When she was a baby I used to take my stroller in to the changing rooms with me, so she was safe whilst I changed. The buggy park was just outside by reception so once we were ready we could pop it outside.
    We went from 6 weeks old. I used to put her dummy in my bra bit of my costume so if she suddenly created a scene I could pop it in and soothe her.
    I used to go swimming at the same time as the pool had their private mum & baby lessons. Only half the teaching pool would be sectioned off. Thrn I would sing the same songs/do the same actions. .. FOR FREE

    1. Love your dummy tip! And also your super sneaky way of joining in the lessons - genius!! :D
      Thanks so much for sharing your tips xx

  2. I love the swim fin. We take our kids to the local pool as well as having a splash about in our home pool. But as you say safety comes first. I'm always in the pool with my kids and when it is not in use, the company who installed our pool also erected a pool fence for safety.

    Stella Hammond @ Palm City Pools

  3. Loved your article! It was an interesting perspective on how sports affects our decision making skills. I’m working as a school counsellor and I found this article had some useful tips to help Parents help their children develop their decision making skills. Thanks WWICS Complaints