Category Archives: swimming

Learning to swim, learning to love

Last month, B swam a few proper strokes with his face down and holding his breath in the water. No big deal, right?  Yet something this trivial was a breakthrough after years of stops and starts.

B loved water since young, and I was so inspired by this book, I tried to follow it but failed miserably. Our swim time together was constantly interrupted with my string of early miscarriages, full time work, frequent travel, and lack of “substitutes” – aka the grandparents who also faced several health setbacks.  That led to a 1.5 year hiatus where B lost water confidence and regressed to saying “I can’t swim,” “don’t want to wet my face” and “too scared.” At parties, B’s friends would dive in pools and take big water slides, and he’d feel left out… So this year, we decided to try again. I intentionally planned more water play, bath tub or pool time together, and hubby signed them both up for Saturday morning class, which proved great 1-on-1 time to bond too.  There were happy tears when he passed his latest Duckie level last month, and is transitioning to learn freestyle and breaststroke – swimming on his own!

B’s journey to learn to swim made me think about my journey to learn to love in our marriage. As we celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary today, I’m reminded how tough marriage is when you bring two imperfect people together in an imperfect world. We start highly motivated with great intentions and textbook ambitions but life’s ups and downs get in the way. We tend to compare with others, only to feel shortchanged or discouraged. We lose faith and confidence, think and eventually say negative things. We’re tempted to quit after all the pit stops and detours as the effort seems too time consuming, emotionally draining, isolating – and too often, not worth it.

But the breakthrough comes when we presevere. Be it a challenging milestone or moments in marriage, don’t give up for it’s never too late to turn things around.

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The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months 😮 You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:  Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books  to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime.  You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”  You like to call out numbers, upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.  It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).  Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth 🙂

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:  Since you started carrying a tune, you  haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.  These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “一步一步走啊走”.   This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers – you like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks – all with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we play “I Spy” and 这是什么?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me  you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff  😉

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.  You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.  There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:  Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.  Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  We now do more things outside and for  longer before you ask for a “抱抱“!  You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.  Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from place to place.  I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

Linking up with:
SANses.com's Talkative Thursdays 

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Are all babies water babies?

“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!
How To Teach Your Baby To Swim
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.

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Month 6 Week 4: Halfway there

This time last year, we were chillaxing in Langkawi for our babymoon/anniversary and I was anticipating my new life with a baby. Not once though did I imagine I’d be a full time mom, let alone enjoy it, most of the time.  This year, we took a staycation at Sentosa – what a strange feeling to be babyfree for 24 hours!  We slept in, ate well and talked about our hopes and dreams for the future including the possibilities ahead of us now that both my parents have long term passes and I’ve received my in-principle Singapore citizenship, as well as when to start work and/or try for #2! 🙂   My dad and mom kindly babysat for us — and sent me regular SMS updates, heh.

B unfortunately caught his first bug which laid the entire household out sick for 2 weeks.  Just when he was sleeping through the night without too much hassle or training, it all went to shambles.  May need to tweak his daily routine to support later morning wake ups (he’s up 5/6a and ready to go, argh), him lasting longer in the afternoons and most importantly, learning to sleep on his own again.  At the moment, he still needs 3 naps in the day and sadly, rocking to drift to sleep, else, he’ll get quite cranky.  Besides this relapse, there’s much to be thankful for.  Feels like he’s growing by leaps and bounds every day:

– Proud owner of 2 bottom front teeth! 😀  Ironically, his first tooth came the day after his 6 month celeb
– Sitting steadily upright, rocking back and forth on his tummy, scoots backwards, moves in a circle with his legs and arms, basically can’t stay still. Crawling soon?
– Fascinated with his fingers, loves to touch, enjoys finger rhymes/games, being tickled esp on his feet and tummy.  Also continuing to learn basic baby sign language
– Loves swimming but our condo pool isn’t the best for infants. May sign him up for Aquaducks instead
– Goes to weekly playgroups now with similar aged infants from my condo complex and our local meet up groups. We take turns to host at our homes.  I’m looking forward to other parent and child activities for us too, including Reggio Emilia discovery at the Blue House.  Quite keen to expose him to this environment
– Saying consonant combo strings now:  babababa, googaa … still no mama though 😦
– Food purees tried so far: avocado, chicken, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes, spinach, sweet beans, radish, apple, pear, blueberry, plum, mango, papaya, chickpeas, beetroot (not such a fan on the last two tho!)
– Started weaning.  50% mommy, 50% formula milk now. Ahhh… it’s really quite manageable now, though I will still try to gradually decrease (vs cold turkey!)

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