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A Parent's Guide to Your Child's First Swimming Classes - All your Questions Answered

Your baby's first swimming class is a milestone in their development.

Our swimming teachers often get asked questions from parents about their baby’s first swimming lessons, including what age to enrol, what to expect in the lessons and how to prevent nappy leakages.

 

To help you prepare for your baby’s first swim, we’ve pulled together a handy list of the most asked questions parents have about baby swimming lessons so you can get prepped for your child’s first lesson.

Baby swimming lesson benefits

Why should I enrol my child in swimming lessons?  

Swimming classes can be a huge development advantage for kids. Research shows that babies and children who learn to swim by the age of five reach development milestones earlier than the norm, this includes more advanced visual-motor, oral expression, literacy and numeracy skills. Parents have also shared that they feel this helps prepare babies for kindergarten and school with many reporting positive experiences at swimming lessons during the early years of parents’ lives too!

 

What’s the right age to enrol my baby in swimming lessons? 

The Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA) indicates that children develop a fear of water as they grow, and the best way parents can ensure their child becomes a safe swimmer is to introduce formal swimming lessons at around four months old. Because babies develop at different rates, you’ll notice many swim schools’ classes start from six months. Beginning at six months is for a couple of reasons – it gives your baby time to ensure their neck and head muscles are strong, and their gag reflex is developed, which means they’re less likely to swallow water.

 

Will baby swimming lessons really help my child learn how to swim? 

Baby swimming lessons are also often called water familiarisation lessons or water safety classes. They are designed to help your child get comfortable in and around water as well as ensure both you and your tot are safe while having fun together.

While babies won’t be able to swim freestyle or breaststroke after completing baby swim classes, they will learn a range of skills, including kicking, floating and submerging.

“We think it’s useful if parents compare it to how a child learns to walk”, explains1 AUSTSWIM Supervisor, Renee Moran. “Most learn to crawl first, and with swimming, before a child can learn to swim, they learn how to kick and float. Children who attend baby swimming lessons learn these foundational skills, which can help them to progress faster at future swimming lessons”.

 

What skills will my baby learn at a swimming class? 

Along with learning water safety skills, baby swimming classes also introduce foundational skills. Skills tend to include the following:

  • Free falling
  • Floating
  • “Monkeying” along the pool wall
  • Jumping into the pool
  • Leg kicking
  • Arm digging
  • Submerging
  • Entering and exiting pool

Different swim schools follow different curriculums, so ask yours for a program overview to understand what is included in your baby swimming classes.

 

*Study conducted by the Griffith Institute for Education Research.

Prepping for your baby swimming classes

What should I bring to a baby swimming class?

Here’s a list of essentials to ensure you and your baby are set and prepped for your first baby swimming class:

  • Your bathers, plus a change of clothes
  • Your baby’s bathers, plus a change of clothes
  • Swim nappy
  • Nappy bag with your essentials
  • Two towels
  • Drinks and snacks
  • Any accessories as directed by a medical diagnosis e.g. ear plugs, aqua headband

Most swim schools have accessible parking, pram access as well as baby change tables. However, it’s always best to confirm the available facilities ahead of your first lesson.

 

What happens at a baby swimming class?

Baby classes are a great way to have fun with your child as you’ll join them and a small group of other swimmers and parents in the pool. Each class typically follows a similar format, designed to help swimmers anticipate what will happen next to build their confidence.

Swimming teachers will guide parents and babies through a series of activities using songs, games and toys. This will teach essential water safety skills, as well as foundational swimming skills, such as kicking, submerging and floating.

 

How can I help prepare my baby for their first swimming lesson?

The more comfortable your baby is in the water, the more they will enjoy the baby swimming classes. It can help if your child is used to having water on their face; a great way to introduce this is by playing bath time games.

Here are a couple of bath games we suggest experimenting with:

  • Game one: Grab a flannel, sponge or something similar, and wet with bath temperature water. Then slowly drip water over your child’s face.
  • Game two: Fill a cup with bath temperature water, and slowly pour over your child’s body and progress to their face.

Remember to smile, talk to your little one and praise them as you move through these activities.

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Answers to the 10 most popular questions parents ask about baby swimming classes

1. Can I bring my child to swimming lessons if I can’t swim?

A baby will need to be accompanied by one caregiver. It’s essential that whoever joins your baby in the pool (whether you or another guardian) feels confident and safe – this is to ensure your baby feels relaxed. Baby swimming classes usually take place in the pool’s shallow end, where the water is waist deep making it easy to stand and walk, while holding your child.

 

2. How long should I enrol in baby swimming classes for?

Swimming schools typically offer two types of programs: age-based and skilled-based. Age-based means swimmers graduate a program once they reach the identified age, and skill-based means swimmers graduate once they achieve the program’s prescribed skills. Most baby swimming programs are age-based, however, it’s always best to confirm with your swimming school.

 

3. Will the chlorine in the swimming pool water irritate my baby’s skin?

Chlorine is necessary in pools to kill germs and create a healthy swimming environment. To minimise the risk of your child experiencing a chlorine skin irritation, we suggest seeking a swim school that uses an ultraviolet (UV) light water purification system. UV systems use light rays to purify water, keeping swimming pools clean and fresh while reducing their chlorine levels, which is gentler on babies’ and children’s skin. Rinsing your child after your lesson helps reduce the risk of skin irritation, plus it also helps avoid making their skin dry. If your baby has any skin or dermatological concerns, seek advice from your baby’s doctor and discuss with your selected swim school prior to beginning your lessons.

 

4. What temperature will the swimming pool water be?

Babies don’t find it as easy to regulate their body temperature the way adults or even toddlers do, so it’s important that the water in the swimming pool is maintained at a comfortable temperature. We find that indoor, heated pools that manage the water at 32 degrees keeps babies most comfortable. Swimming schools usually have this information available on their website – we always recommend checking this prior to enrolling into classes.

 

5. Can my child eat before their swimming class?

Having a small feed up to an hour before a swimming class helps to ensure a baby is content throughout their lesson – large feeds and solids are typically not recommended. Swimming classes might increase your baby’s appetite, so we recommend being prepared and bringing along some post-class snacks.

 

 

6. My baby’s grandparent would like to accompany my child to lessons, is that possible?

Absolutely! Baby swimming classes are a great way to spend quality time together with a grandparent. To help ensure your baby feels relaxed we suggest the accompanying grandparent feels confident and safe in the water.

 

7. What happens if my baby poops during the baby swimming class?

Don’t worry, this is what the swim nappy is for. Remember to carefully follow your swim nappy’s instructions to ensure it’s adjusted correctly, and snuggly fits your baby’s waist and thighs to avoid leakages.

 

8. Do baby swimming lessons run during the school holidays?

Swimming schools tend to operate either perpetually – this means classes run all year round – or they are term based – this means regular classes are paused during the school holidays. More and more swimming schools are running year-round programs because swimming is a skill that requires regular practise to retain skills. Taking long breaks due to school holidays can mean having to redo lessons to relearn techniques. We suggest finding a local swim school that fits your family’s schedule. Also, don’t forget to ask about cancellation and catch-up class policies; after all, it’s likely your baby may fall sick and be unable to attend one of the lessons.

 

9. Will my child cry during the swimming classes?

It’s important to be aware that your child’s reaction to swimming lessons may be crying. For parents, it can be easy to become panicked, self-conscious and worry that your child hates swimming lessons. There are many reasons why your baby may not be enjoying the class at that moment. We recommend persevering by engaging in the lesson – if the crying persists, ask your teacher for a toy to help distract your baby.

 

10. Will I be asked to submerge my baby under water?

Getting your baby comfortable with submerging and going underwater are skills learnt as part of a baby swimming program. Submerging activities help babies advance their safety and freefalling skills and increase movement. Your swimming teacher will guide you through the skill, which includes three steps:

  1. Establishing eye contact with your baby.
  2. Saying aloud “one, two, three”, your baby will learn this verbal cue means they’ll be going underwater.
  3. Blowing over your baby’s nose and mouth to trigger their reflex to ensure they take and hold a breath.

If you have any concerns about submerging, chat to your on deck supervisor prior to the class commencing.

Ready to book your baby’s first swimming lessons?

State Swim has been growing stronger, safer swimmers for more than 50 years. Let us help your family get to know the water by booking your Waterbabies 1 class (for babies aged 6 months to 18 months) or your Waterbabies 2 class (for age 19 months to 30 months). Use our class finder tool to find your nearest class today.

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State Swim is a registered Swim Australia aquatic educator. All State Swim swimming teachers hold nationally recognised swimming and water teacher accreditationsWorking with Children Checks and CPR qualifications.

 

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