As the summer holidays get into full swing this week, it seems that the news is full of reports about the importance of ensuring young children are able to swim. This morning BBC Breakfast (24/27/2017) reported that there had been a 25% drop in the number of children having swimming lessons and yet, when I think back on all the holidays I have been fortunate to have, the one thing I remember often seeing are lots of babies in or around the swimming pool with their parents. Prior to becoming a parent myself I would think nothing of this, but now I wonder about how safe were these babies in the water? For this Mama Bear I always knew that I would take little Bear swimming, but I didn’t think I would take him at such a young age – but boy I’m glad I did.
There is no doubt that, in comparison to other baby classes, swimming with little Bear is expensive. By the time you have bought the swimming nappies, neoprene swimming nappy (a required item with the majority of baby swimming providers) and a wrap to keep little ones warm in the sometimes chilly pool, you can find that you have already spent somewhere in the region of £35-45 (if buying new) before even entering the water. Therefore, when I was expecting little Bear I realised that I needed to do my research into the different baby swimming franchises before deciding who I would opt for, and I would recommend any other parent to do the same. The things I wanted from a swimming class were:
- For us to learn about water safety
- For lessons to be a fun and sensory experience
- For classes to give us greater confidence in the water
- For the teachers to really care about swimming and babies
- For classes to be progressive.
After doing my research into the three local franchises in South Cheshire (that I was aware of at the time I was expecting), I decided to go with Puddleducks – they were not the cheapest provider, but they ticked all the boxes for me – they also offered a free taster lesson for you to attend before you commit to a further block of 8 lessons. Another reason why I chose them was because I had attended their aquanatal classes (no other provider offered these) when I was expecting little Bear and I was able to watch the Little Dippers class before ours, and seeing how happy the toddlers were in the water ultimately helped me to make up my mind.
At 8 weeks old, little Bear attended his first Puddleducks Floaties swimming class, and Kirsty our first swimming teacher was fantastic. We played lots of games in the water, spent time floating on our backs and singing songs. Importantly, in that very first lesson we learnt about the importance of water safety when bringing our little ones into the pool, how to hold them safely in the water and started to teach them to blow bubbles in the water so that they knew to spit the water out – this I hasten to add has made getting little Bear to drink from his doidy cup very interesting. It was great and in that first lesson Puddleducks had already met all of my expectations.
The one thing I was apprehensive about was “dunking” little Bear underwater at his first lesson, as I had heard some providers do this, however Puddleducks do not do this I later found out. Instead they put babies underwater during their second lessons and only if they a) are happy, b) don’t have the hiccoughs, c) don’t have their hands in their mouths. Kirsty was also keen to stress that the reason why they do this at such a young age is because it gets the babies used to the water and below 6 months they have a strong gag reflex which means that they should not swallow the water.
By the end of our first block of lessons it was clear to me that little Bear absolutely loved swimming and I could see that with every lesson he was growing in confidence when in the water. It has been a wonderful bonding time for us and he loves going underwater and, importantly, before being submerged underwater we always give a signal which means little Bear knows what will happen next – he now hears this signal in water and closes his eyes as he knows that he will be submerged imminently. Also he is happy to be submerged not only by me, but by his teachers too which meant that when Kirsty went on maternity leave he was happy with our new teacher Ryan and also with the instructor who was with us for his underwater photoshoot.
We have now moved from the relaxing Floaties class and on the the more active (and very aptly named) Splashers class, which little Bear has really enjoyed. In this new class the games we play are more active and when he goes underwater he is submerged deeper and does some brief independent swimming. He is now beginning to kick his legs when he is on his front and reach for the toys.
Most importantly though we are learning about the importance of turning around when you get into the water, reaching for the side and holding on, so that if the worst should happen and little Bear falls into the water (i.e. the bath) he will know what to do to save himself. I was absolutely amazed that after our first lesson with Susie, the Sunday instructor, that evening when we were in the bath little Bear was starting to reach for the sides. When I said the important signal words ‘reach, reach, reach’ he put his hands out to grab the side of the bath. Following that when I said ‘hold on, hold on, hold on,’ he held on the the side of the bath the whole time. I was so proud of him and that moment was worth all cost as it fills me with the confidence of know that, should he get into difficultly, he will know how to try and save himself.
I for one am so happy that we decided to take little Bear swimming at such an early age, we are already seeing the rewards and how with each lesson he is growing in confidence. I would certainly recommend all parents, where they can, take their little ones to swimming lessons as learning about water safety is so important. Not only that it is truly a wonderful bonding experience.
Mama Bear x