Swimming is a great way to get your child physically active, and while some parents like to get their baby swimming early on, toddler splash sessions and more formal swimming lessons can be great fun.
Going swimming with your toddler
• Check if your local swimming pool has a ‘learner’ or children’s pool – these tend to be smaller and less daunting to visit that the big pool and the water should be warmer, too. Remember that your toddler isn’t going to be doing lots of energetic lengths so she will get cold and shivery if the water is too cold.
• You may find that the pool has restrictions such as one adult to one child under five, so check ahead if you are planning to take more than one child at a time.
• Pack a couple of ‘swimming nappies’. Regular nappies turn to mushy gel in water, but swimming nappies fit underneath a child’s trunks or swimsuit and ensure that your child doesn’t have any embarrassing accidents while in the pool.
• If your child has recently had an immunisation, ideally wait a couple of days for the affected patch of skin to recover.
• Take a few little bath toys with you to play with in the pool to make the experience less unfamiliar.
• Make sure you have water wings with you that are the right size for your child.
• When you both get in the water, do so gently. Perhaps encouraging your child to get her face wet by crawling into the shallow water on her belly, ‘like a crocodile’, first.
• If your child doesn’t want to float around with you then sit and swish about in the water for a little while, getting used to this new experience and cut your visit short.
• When your child gets more confident, encourage her to jump into your arms from a seated and then from a standing position on the side of the pool, and later on get her to swim with water wings on, towards you but just an arms’ length away so you are still reassuringly close.
Finding swimming lessons
• Your local swimming pool or health club may offer a range of different classes at facilities where the water is warmer and preferably low in chlorine (which can irritate young children’s eyes and skin).
• Good swimming lessons will not be too pressurised for this age group but will instead aim to build up confidence in the water and create a sense of fun.
• Ask if you can sit poolside while your toddler is in class, certainly to start off with, so you can be a reassuring presence.
• Your child will probably not really need to develop swimming technique until at least four or five years, but if you pick baby and toddler sessions now rather than regular swimming classes for older children, the instructors will be able to guide you as to when exactly your child is ready for the next steps towards being a confident swimmer.
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