I sometime tell those who come to the pool for the first time at a “certain” age that “It is never too late to come to the pool!”
The same is true for the opposite case: it is never too early to start bringing your baby to the pool!
Our little ones are familiar with water even from before coming into the world by being immersed in the amniotic fluid in their mother’s womb; because of this, they can be brought to the pool from the earliest months of life. This is generally after the third month, when the first vaccinations are completed.
From a psychomotor standpoint, aquatic activities offer many advantages for the little ones’ development. In fact, water helps them discover their bodies, develop motor intelligence and the ability to orient themselves in space; it also helps them gain a sense of rhythm.
The goals obviously change as the child grows and adapts to various stages of development.
In the early months water is an element that unites, strengthens and encourages parent-child relationship, through moments of deep interaction and contact. This is the case until the twelfth month when they can experience the first spontaneous reports with the environment and some games.
Around the eighteenth month they can have greater autonomy in the water by trying the first independent postures and movements; around 24 months it is advisable to stimulate socialization, relationship and work on water skills.
There are many ways to introduce your child to the water; the easier way is to have your baby follow a specific class for 0-3 years of age.
All pools are offering now classes dedicated to children, but my advice is not to stop at the first center and especially, make sure you check out some very important aspects:
When it comes to your little one, as a parent, you have many legitimate questions and concerns. Having someone who takes time to answer your questions is the first thing you need to pay attention to.
Temperature and pool’s features
Choose a pool in which the activities are carried out in small basins with a water temperature around 33/34°C. The pool should be cozy, colorful and rich in stimuli to arouse the curiosity of the youngest ones.
Organization of the swimming classes
Ask how they divide the various levels of lessons: it is preferable that a 12 months old baby would not be involved in the same activities as a 24-month child. The better organized centers categorize children by age groups, ranging from 3 to 3 months. Then, ask about parent-child and instructor ratio (it should never be greater than 5/6).
Ask to see the locker room and make sure it is suitable for children; check if they are provided with baby changing stations and if the premises are spacious and warm.
If you are comfortable in water and want to live the experience with your baby without an instructor, get into the pool with your little one [him/her] and try these simple exercises:
1. Stimulate your baby’s senses.
Pour some water on him/her, first on the legs, then on the shoulders and finally on the head. You can use your hands, a glass or a bucket, things that can usually be found in every pool.
2. Stimulate your baby’s balance.
Place your hands under his/her butt and move the baby slowly through the water stretching his/her arms back and forth trying to stimulate your baby’s sense of balance
3. Stimulate movement coordination.
Let your baby play with a water ball; let him/her grab it and drop it in the water then pick it up again; you may use two, three, many!
4. Stimulate the desire to imitate.
Blow below the water in front of your little one making bubbles; this will surely attract your baby’s attention and curiosity; your little one may try to do the same.
Have your baby sit on the edge of the pool in front of you, hold his/her hands and wait for your little one to plunge into the water. When in water, hold him/her under the armpits and let your baby move in the water.
Before starting a swimming class it is always best to inform the pediatrician and ask if there are any contraindications in this respect.
For their safety and your peace of mind, all these water activities should be carried out by wearing a lifejacket or alternatively appropriate size arm floaties. Finally, don’t forget to have your baby wear waterproof swimsuit with snug-fitting legs and waist or built-in swimming diaper swimwear.
And now, jump into the water with your little one! You’ll find out that you will be the first to have fun!