Here is a bit of background information before I blog about our experience with swimming lessons with our baby:
When Linden was 3 months old, I started to realize how boring babies are, and was trying desperately to find something to do with a newborn. He couldn’t sit up on his own, he couldn’t crawl – he couldn’t do much of anything, really. So, short of circle time and rolling a ball to him and basically playing fetch by myself, I looked into getting him into swimming. There was nothing available in my area at the time for babies under 6 months of age. All the community centres started them at 6 months. I was talking to my neighbour at New Years, and she suggested a place called Swim Clo Aquatics which is a private swim school in BC. As soon as the holidays were over, I called them enquiring about whether they would take a 4 month old, and they did! I got Linden enrolled (and by this time, he was just under 5 months), and we now had an activity! Swim Clo works out of the Best Western hotel in South Surrey, and they offer private lessons, which was awesome for us, being new parents and all, and really not knowing what to expect in regards to taking a baby swimming. It was comforting to know that we would be the only people in the pool, and both my husband and I were invited (and encouraged) to come in the pool with our son. It was also a heated pool, which was really nice for our son since he was so young. We started him out twice a week for the first few months, just so he would get used to the water, and then dialled back to once a week. The lessons were good for Linden, and for us as parents, as we were taught how to properly hold our son in the water, how to properly submerge him, how to teach him to swim, proper water safety, etc. It was very repetitive, basically swimming from one end of the pool to the other for more than half the class, then we would do “Humpty-Dumpty’s” which is when we sat him on the edge of the pool, did the Humpty Dumpty song, and then submerged him and taught him to swim back to the edge, and then finally we would end off with him playing with some water toys, which he absolutely loved!
When he turned 9 months, we were able to get him into swimming lessons at the community pool near our house. They follow the same program (the Red Cross Swim Preschool Program), but its a group session with kids ranging from 4 months to 36 months (I know, now they take 4 month olds!). Linden was the second youngest in the class, with most of the kids being closer to the 30-36 month age range, and the youngest one being 5 months old. The classes were super fun for Linden, lots of songs in the pool like Purple Stew, The Wheels on the Bus, Fishies in the Middle, Hokey Pokey, etc., which Linden just loved. The songs are interactive and fun for the little ones, and the kids had a great time. I did notice however, that they didn’t “teach” as much swimming stuff to the kids or the parents. Although everything we did in the classes were safety related, teaching them to be comfortable on their backs, blowing bubbles, etc., they didn’t teach the fundamentals of each step, such as rollovers (how to get them onto their backs, and teaching the babies to roll onto their backs) for water safety. This wasn’t a problem for us since we had already been taking lessons with Swim Clo, so this was actually good practice for us. We did notice however, that the parents of the other baby in the class were kind of left out. They didn’t really know what to do, and felt uncomfortable and nervous when we had to submerge our babies/kids because they had never done it before, nor been shown how to do so safely or properly. Long story short, the community centre swim program is a great tool for practice, but not a great place to learn how to swim.
When we look back now, Swim Clo was an expensive alternative at the time, but now that we see Linden’s progress and see him with other peers in his “age group” (although most were older), we could see that he was actually better in some aspects than some of the 3 year olds. Although expensive, Swim Clo was worth every penny, and I’m glad we enrolled him. I’m not trying to show off that our son is better at swimming than the 3 year olds, because he’s not – he still obviously needs us to hold him – but what I am trying to get at, is he is comfortable in the water, he’s not afraid to do things in the water, and he knows how to do things in the pool that I think other kids his age may not be able to do. For example, he is totally fine with, and in fact enjoys getting his face wet. There’s a lot of kids who are afraid of getting splashed in the face with water, or getting their faces wet, or dunked underwater. Linden also (with the help and the consistency of Swim Clo), can kick his legs 100% on his own, can splash his hands in the water when you tell him to, and reaches for the edge of the pool when you tell him to (which is great for water safety). He is even starting to try a swimming stroke with his arms now, which I think is awesome for an 11 month old.
He still can’t swim on his own, but I’m confident that day is coming soon. What I can say though, is that he loves the water, and isn’t afraid of it, which is all I’m asking for. Both my husband and I want our kids to grow up being active, playing outside, doing physical activities because we feel its good for them and important for their physical (and mental) well being. We hope to be able to continue Linden in classes both at Swim Clo as well as at the community centre without getting too overwhelmed with all his other activities, and with him starting daycare when he turns 1!