Why should babies learn to swim?

Bay Swim manager Claire Horner has been a swim teacher for 20 years. Photo supplied.

Knowing how to swim is critical, and with drowning statistics so high in New Zealand it’s best to start learning as soon as possible, says a Tauranga swimming instructor.

“Learning to swim is an essential life skill, especially when you live in a coastal city and a country surrounded by water,” says BaySwim manager Claire Horner, who has been a swim teacher for 20 years.

“The very first step on your journey to learn to swim is getting comfortable in and around water.”

Claire says as adults we often take for granted the feeling of comfort we have in the water.

“No doubt we developed that comfort by spending time in the water as young children ourselves,” says Claire.

She says that’s why it’s important to start earlier to get comfortable in the water.

Claire holds swimming lessons for babies at BaySwim called Aquababes sessions.

“We want to help foster a love of being in the water from a young age so that babies can then begin to learn how to move and play in the water with confidence as they get older.”

“Our Aquababes programme is for little ones aged between three months old and three years old.

“These sessions are for both parent and baby. You are in the water together – connecting, bonding, and having fun.”

She says the main goal is to get the babies comfortable in the water and to build their confidence.

“But these sessions are also about parents engaging with their children, doing an enjoyable activity together, while also meeting other parents and babies and socialising.

“Our preschool sessions, for children aged three years to five years, then build on that comfort and confidence.”

After these lessons, the children will be used to being in the water without a parent and they will get a feel for independence, says Claire.

She says there are many benefits for babies to learn how to swim, including reducing their risk of drowning, improving their physical and mental development and providing a sense of security for parents.

“The Aquababes sessions are about getting babies comfortable in the water and building confidence.

“That then naturally leads to learning how to move and play and have fun in the water.”

Claire says there are also social and physical benefits to spending quality time with your parent, playing and moving in the water together, alongside others.

“Spending this time in the water also prepares babies for the next stage of their learn-to-swim journey, when preschoolers are introduced to blowing bubbles, holding their breath, floating, kicking, and then entry-level arm movements, which then paves the way for future swimming lessons. 

“We’re not teaching or expecting babies to learn specific swimming skills. That comes much later once you foster that love for the water and the foundation is set.”

Swimming lessons for babies are known to be expensive, however these Aquababes sessions are $15 a session, and Claire says they are well worth the price for the safety of the baby.

“We think that is a fair and reasonable price when you look at the specialised training each instructor undertakes, the personalised approach of each class, the various costs of running a pool, and the fact that with your enrolment you get free unlimited access at any time of the week to Baywave and Greerton Aquatic & Leisure Centre.

“We have also partnered with Whānau Āwhina Plunket to give all Bay of Plenty tamariki under the age of three access to one term of Aquababes at half price.”

The sessions are 30 minutes long which Claire says provides plenty of time to make the most of the lesson.

“Our preschool sessions, for children aged three to five years old, are kept small and personal and are focused on maintaining and growing water confidence and comfort.

“The children are now getting used to being in the water without a parent, they are getting a feel for the independence that comes with that, and they are starting to learn how to blow bubbles, hold their breath, float, and kick.”

She says only near the end of this preschool stage are entry-level arm movements introduced.

“Learning to swim is a journey with many steps or stages. Building comfort and confidence in and around the water comes first,” says Claire.

“Learning how to move and play and have fun in the water comes next, and then there are a few basic skills that are introduced, which pave the way for future swimming lessons.

“Blowing bubbles and holding your breath, for example, will eventually lead to breathing exercises when the little swimmer is ready.”

The preschool sessions are small classes of three or four children of a similar age and stage.

“They progress at their rate so that they continue to enjoy spending time in the water in a fun, stress-free environment.

“There’s also the obvious social benefits of spending time with other kids their age and doing an activity together.”

Drowning statistics are high in New Zealand which is due to several factors including supervision, comfort and confidence in the water.

“Our aquatic centres (Baywave, Greerton Aquatic & Leisure Centre, the Mount Hot Pools, etc.) launched a new child supervision policy and campaign called Keep Me Safe in 2020 and it led to a positive change almost immediately, with a 36 per cent drop in the number of wet rescues across all venues in the first year,” says Claire.

“Keep Me Safe, which won a Recreation Aotearoa National Aquatic Innovation Award, is all about caregivers taking ownership of their child's safety in and around the water and new pool rules and parent-to-child ratios were implemented to drive home the message and force change.”

Claire says learning how to float and kick, blow bubbles and hold your breath as a preschooler can only help when it comes to water safety.

“Building comfort and confidence in and around water can only reduce that instinct to panic.

“And spending time in an environment like BaySwim, in which water safety is not only taught but built into everything we do, can only give young ones a better understanding of their limitations and the dos and don’ts around water.

“BaySwim parents also learn a lot about water safety along the way.”

You may also like....

1 comment

The Master

Posted on 15-02-2024 13:33 | By Ian Stevenson

The heading says "Why should babies learn to swim?"

Is that obvious or what? The alternate is to walk along the bottom, not such a good idea.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.