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Swimming with babies and toddlers

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Lots of children say that swimming is their favourite family activity and it’s a great way to get active together. Not only is swimming fun and accessible, it’ll also help to keep the whole family fit and is an essential life skill. Swimming can have major health benefits. It builds strength, stamina and flexibility, keeps children’s hearts and lungs healthy and improves posture and balance.

Water safety is crucial - drowning remains a common cause of accidental death in children, yet many are still unable to swim by the age of 12. Ensuring that your child is confident around water could help keep them safe later in life.

Ready to make a splash?

Children love being in the water even from a very young age and children who’ve taken baby swimming classes have been shown to do better in gripping, reaching and balance tests than non-swimming babies.

You can join a local group if you’re nervous about taking your child into the pool for the first time, or just get in and give it a go. Even though it can seem daunting, once they’ve mastered swimming it’s a valuable skill they’ll have for life.

Before your baby is old enough to hit the pool, bath time is a brilliant opportunity to start getting them used to being in the water. You might notice that your baby will instinctively move their arms and legs when they’re immersed in water, and this will help them get used to being supported in the water and feeling splashes on their face.

Experts say the best age for babies to try the swimming pool for the first time is around six months – before that they can get too cold easily. You can ask a healthcare professional if you have any concerns. When you’re in the water, make sure that your baby is submerged to shoulder level in the water, or wearing a full suit so that they don’t get cold. Full suits also offer protection against sunburn if you are in an outside pool.

Keep moving – this helps to teach your baby that moving their arms and legs will help them stay afloat.

Family fun in the pool

Older children will enjoy swimming with you too. In the early days, ease your child in gently at the shallow end (or some pools will have a baby or toddler area where you can gradually walk into the water). Keep things relaxed, and focus on playing games and having fun in the water.

Your child will be encouraged by your attitude, so try to show that you’re happy and confident in the water and that you are enjoying yourself!

Don’t forget to bring any floats, armbands or goggles your child needs to use, as well as swim nappies if you need them. It’s a good idea to bring a drink and a snack for afterwards too, as small children are usually hungry and tired after a swim.