Before you choose a swim school for your baby's lessons it's worth considering what you'd ideally like to see in terms of results. Every parent is different - I was inspired to write this post by a story I heard recently from a fellow swimming teacher who had a parent leave baby swimming lessons because the baby hadn't yet travelled five metres. The baby in question was 5 months old.
I have some goals for my own daughters and I wanted to share them with you. Although I don't like to focus on the negatives, I thought in this instance it might be helpful to talk about the things I am not looking for first of all.
Baby swimming is not about teaching strokes.
When children are around the age of four, they are generally ready to start learning the four main strokes. Some children will be slightly younger, some slightly older, but most children lack the upper body strength and coordination they need to perform a recognised stroke before then.
Baby swimming is not about going under the water.
Submersion is a small part of baby swimming, and it certainly is good to get your little one used to how their body feels to float on top of the water and swim beneath the surface. But baby swimming is absolutely not about conditioning and submerging babies.
Baby swimming is not about drown-proofing.
You simply can't drown-proof a baby, just like you can't protect a child from every danger. The methods used to train little ones in this way can cause long term harm, and provide no guarantees despite potentially a huge financial and psychological cost.
Baby swimming is not about swimming a certain distance.
The distance your baby can swim now is irrelevant - it's no indication of how well your baby will swim when they're older. You'll have years and years to collect distance certificates - those precious early years are about making memories, not achieving goals.
So that's the negatives out of the way - what about the positives?
Baby swimming is about building technique.
We're looking for a streamlined body position, the fundamentals of an efficient kick and arm pull, and there are plenty of water skills we can introduce in simplified form to babies and toddlers.
Baby swimming is about letting your baby take the lead - and being willing to take a risk as a parent.
Despite your own fear of water, your baby may be ready to go for a gentle dip - it's about reading their body language and the signs they're giving you and following their lead. As parents we can't hold them back - just as much as we can't push them too far.
Baby swimming is about water safety.
The more comfortable your little one is in the water the better, and you can teach elements of water safety from a very young age. Having your baby turn around and hold the side with you every time they jump in is a brilliant water safety skill, as is teaching them to climb out of the pool independently.
Baby swimming is about building a true love of the water.
That's what it comes down to. We want to inspire children to love the water, so that they feel inspired to put that wonderful leg kick and body position to good use when they're ready to learn the strokes. They need to be able to explore the water and feel water confident, but also to recognise the associated risks. There are so many opportunities to put a child off taking their swimming career further - and there are so many opportunities to build memories of swimming with parents that will be treasured forever. We need to make early experiences in the pool enjoyable so that positive, happy associations are formed.