“How to teach your baby to swim” was the most informative Doman book I’ve read so far. It actually encouraged me to swim more with B. Some tips below – do read the book for more insight of course!
Swimming helps to stimulate brain growth and development at a critical time in early childhood, especially when babies’ physical mobility is still limited. Virtually all muscles are used when swimming, providing for an excellent aerobic workout! Children who are competent and confident swimmers are also more likely to be participants, not just spectators in life. As your baby swims more, his heart and lungs will develop, breath will be held longer, muscles and chest will grow, overall mobility, immune system, language and manual competence will improve. Swim as often as possible, ideally 3-5x a week, using some of these activities and goals as a guide.
For newborns (birth to 6 months):
Babies have been “swimming” in utero since birth. Once born, swimming provides an opportunity to move in an environment where he will be buoyant and baby fat advantageous. In these early months, the goal is to help baby to love being in water and learn to hold their breath in . Be consistent week to week, “swimming” daily in the warm bath tub. Activities include: Balancing and floating with baby’s chin on parent’s shoulder, floating on baby’s back, blowing bubbles, passing under a gentle shower (try till you can do this 10x nonstop, and then go underwater), gentle jumping into the bath with support of the side of the tub or parent’s thumbs/hands. Before swimming: Ensure newborn is fed and rested, with hugs and kisses, cuddling throughout and at the end!
For 6-12 months:
Gradually transition to a pool or open water, preferably heated. Note: Children can tolerate the cooler temps of an outdoor pool only at around 18-24 months. Extend the length of time baby goes underwater, holds his breath and keep up the newborn activities while adding new ones: Swimming from one parent to another, climbing out with assistance, bobbing up and down to breathe and submerge (at a “1-2-3-under” cue). Goal: For the child to be able to sit by the side of the pool, jump in, swim a few feet and resurface to breathe with limited assistance.
For 1-2 years:
Focus now on independent activities, e.g. climbing out of the pool, swimming the width of a pool (underwater-resurface to breathe-underwater), safely diving into the pool. Exposure your child to the beach (lake/seafront) and encourage him to eventually walk into the water and swim with you. Activities: Bobbing up and down holding the side of the pool, swimming to and from the edge/steps to parent, floating on the back and flipping over to continue swimming, jumping and diving from a sitting, kneeling, then standing position to a parent, pushing off (from a ladder) and swimming to a parent, climbing out of the pool using steps and a ladder with a little boost as needed from parent. Goal: Child to happily and easily jump into the pool, swim across ~6 yards/meters, and climb out independently. If in a natural body of water, the child to swim out a short distance, turn around, swim back and walk out onto the beach.
For 2-4 years:
Children in this age group are extremely active physically, in constant motion, and MUST be well fed before swimming. Time to introduce goggles as they will start to pick up proper strokes. Activities: Flutter kicking as the child holds one side of the pool or as you hold the child on the side of your body, diving and streamlining to you from the side of the pool, diving from a standing position and streamlining, diving in the water to the bottom to retrieve an object. Goal: Streamlining, breathing and pulling with arms, swimming the length of the pool with a crawl stroke taught via:
- A: Breathing and head turning while holding side of pool, rotate chin towards the shoulder and inhale, straighten the head as it enters the water and exhale
- B: Same as A but with parent holding child in the middle of pool
- C: Using arms for the crawl. Hold child on parent’s side and progress to independent swimming
For 4-6 years:
Focus on helping the child swim easier, safer and faster, improving the quality of streamlining, endurance, the crawl stroke (outside the pool) and diving. Goals: 4 years – 100 meters crawl, 5 years – 200 meters crawl, 6 years – 400 meters crawl. Once your child loves to swim and is doing well with the crawl, move on to other strokes/flip turns and continue to teach in a loving way! Activities: Streamlining with independent breathing, further nonstop crawl strokes (inhale left and then right), diving in the sitting, kneeling and standing position. Introduce face down bench activities: Rotate chin to shoulder and inhale, straighten head and exhale, flutter kicking (knees over the end of the bench and movement from hips, not knees), rotate and pull with both arms (moving over and below the sides of the bench), combine pulling with arms, flutter kicking and breathing
Besides the frequent reassurance, include water play i.e. ways to make it fun for toddlers and up: Retrieve toys such as rings/brightly coloured objects, swim between parents’ legs, ride on your back like a dolphin, race/chase/”tag”, throw kid into “deep” water while standing, push off the bottom and rocket to the surface, see how far you can swim underwater, swim in deep water, play soccer/water polo/basketball with a floating net, go underwater and somersault forwards/backwards, stand on your hands on the bottom of the pool, try a “Marco Polo” (kid holds themselves in a tuck position – knees held tightly against chess, parent throws them into the air, they splash in water and swim back)
Remember: Overall success in physical excellence requires an ideal environment and maximum opportunity. So keep the structure of each swim session the same, with frequent and brief activities, and plenty of love, reassurance and laughter.