Aching to introduce your little one to the pool, lake or ocean, but don't know if it's too soon?
Erin H., a Circle of Moms member from Australia, wonders when she can start swimming lessons for her child. The beach is a huge part of her family’s lifestyle, so it's vital that her children become well versed in water safety and learn to swim at an early age. Yet she wonders whether six months of age is too soon to start her baby on swimming lessons.
Most Circle of Moms members echo Erin's hesitation over putting a very young baby in water. Their pediatricians urged them to wait until after the six-month mark, or even longer. Jessica M. and Jill W.'s pediatricians, for instance, both cautioned that babies tend to swallow a lot of water when they swim, and that their immune systems are not yet ready to deal with the bacteria and chlorine. Diane K., who is a member of a local pool, adds that public and facility pools typically contain much higher levels of chemicals than private pools.
Still, the consensus is that most kids can and should start swimming lessons after the six-month mark, provided that their pediatricians have given the green light. Here, members share three tips on getting a child of this age used to the water.
1. Avoiding Fear of Water
Many Circle of Moms members believe toddlers are at the perfect age to begin swimming lessons because they haven't developed a fear of the water yet. They're also are quick learners, so they'll put their swimming lessons to use quickly.
“I honestly believe that the earlier you get your child in the pool and start making them comfortable in it, the better for the child,” says Megan C.
Swimming lessons for toddlers often are parent participation classes, whereas lessons for older children often are solely with an instructor. “I think a lot of parents don't introduce their children to the water soon enough because of their own personal fears, but I have found that every child I know who is a afraid of the water was four or five before they were really introduced to the water,” she says. “Think about it: Would you rather have your first experience in a pool (scary enough for any kid) be in the arms of your mom or dad, or in some random class with a bunch of other kids your age and no mom or dad in sight? Seems like a no-brainer to me.”
Angie B. agrees that it’s better to start swimming lessons earlier rather than later. She started her daughters in swimming lessons when they were older, and reports her eight-year-old is struggling with a fear of the water. “You’re smart to get your baby into lessons early; it's been horrible to watch my daughter struggle.”
On the other hand, Sharon D. paid for private swimming lessons for her two and a half year-old daughter, and by the end of the summer she could jump off the side of the pool into the water, and go underwater. “She loves it,” Sharon says.
Ultimately, exposing toddlers to the water at an early age allows children to have a natural, healthy respect and response to water as they play in and around it in later years,” Diane K. concludes. "Early exposure and confidence in and around water can also help them if they have a scare around water at an older age. They are usually more apt to respond appropriately than in a way that could cost them their lives.”
2. Getting Ready
Consulting with your pediatrician before beginning swimming lessons is important because your doctor will go over recommendations regarding the appropriate water temperature, which sunscreen to use, if any, and immunizations to have, and how to avoid too much chlorine chemical exposure.
In addition to consulting with your pediatrician, a member named Diane also recommends keeping stints in the water short to avoid the chills, keeping toddlers heads above water, and using UV protection. “Pool exposure at a young age handled incorrectly, or in a way that makes the child feel insecure, will cause fear in the future,” she says.
Sunscreen is normally not recommended for children under six months of age, cautions Emily W. “It can actually cause a baby to overheat because they are unable to sweat,” she explains. Instead she suggests choosing a shaded or indoor pool, and having your child wear a protective sun guard shirt, UV swim shorts and a wide-brimmed hat.
Other members recommend a water temperature of 80 degrees, and remind moms to make sure your toddler is dried off and warmed up quickly after coming out of the water because children can get chilled easily at a young age.
Last but not least, Anne D. suggests singing songs and playing games when you take your toddler to the pool. Making the pool a fun place "will help when they are ready to learn to swim," she explains.
3. Teaching Water Safety
Drowning is the leading cause of death in children under four years old, points out a member named Karen T. That’s why she feels it's important for children to have survival swimming lessons starting at a young age.
Diane K. agrees. Although water is a wonderful place for children to have fun, explore, and learn about many things, it is dangerous. “You would never let your child play near a busy street or cross a busy street without total supervision. Treat water as if it's just as dangerous."
To that end, Lisa D. feels parents should approach learning to swim the same way they do any other new thing — by being safe and taking baby steps.
Moms can start by going over pool (or ocean and lake) safety rules such as walking, not running, on the deck of a pool, and always making sure an adult is nearby. Many moms recommend “mommy and me” swimming lessons, in which you start off just splashing your child while you’re holding her, to help her become comfortable in the water.
Finally, Lisa advises parents with pools to be agressive about teaching water safety. “Because we live with a water source, we wanted to make sure that if, for some reason they fell in the pool, they would know how to hold their breath and get to the side,” she says.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.