Living in the UAE we ae surrounded by water with the Arabian Gulf and an abundance of swimming pools. As a parent we always want to protect our children, so what better way that to give our little ones some basic life skills. The importance of learning to be confident and swim are life skills paramount to living here.
When to start?
Babies are born with primitive reflexes that allow them to swim from birth. They lose these at around six months, so it makes sense to take advantage early on, we recommend that you start once the baby can hold his or her own head up easily but you can start from birth!
Why Swimming and what are the benefits?
Swimming is one of the best loved family activities. It is the largest participation sport in many parts of the world and many children say it is their favorite pastime, so it’s good to get them started early to build water confidence.
Benefits of starting swimming with a baby:
- Water Safety –It teaches a child water safety for example to turn around and travel back to the wall when they fall in, hold on to the wall and climb out by themselves.
- Physical benefits– Swimming exercises more muscles more effectively in water than on land therefore increasing muscle strength, the exercises we do in water helps to build muscle memory (correct way to kick etc.) it develops coordination and is amazing for improving balance.
Each lesson provides a complete physical work-out, strengthening your baby’s heart and lungs and in turn aiding development of the brain — including stimulating all 5 senses (taste, smell, touch, sight and sound). And with each lesson burning up to 300 calories, you’ll get a work-out, too!
- Confidence – Introducing a child to the water early and in a fun and playful way prevents the child from developing a fear of water later on and is great for boosting their confidence!
- Physical Independence and Self-Awareness– A baby who is used to being stationary can move about independently in the water they learn balance and coordination. The motion and sensation of the water gives an awareness of self that otherwise would not be gained.
- Bonding – It promotes bonding through skin to skin contact between the parent and child and is also a great activity for dads to get involved in who may not always have time to do activities with their little ones.
- Language Development– using word action association and repetition as part of the core learning methods, for example parents will be asked to say Kick, Kick, Kick when moving about the pool and Hold on, Turn, reach etc. the over use of these word help your baby to soon learn there meaning.
- Social Skills – Interacting with other babies and children, learning to wait their turn and praise the efforts of others instills good social skills, team work and independence. Parents also get to socialize with other parents and their babies a great way to make new friends!
- Healthy Life Style– Getting into a good active lifestyle early on will set the ground for your child’s future and will become the norm in future years.
- Improved Sleep and appetite – Water relaxes your baby, and swimming stimulates their appetite; for you, the good news is improved sleeping and eating patterns!
How long will it take your child to learn to swim:
Every child is different and therefore it is impossible to give an exact answer to this question. But the good news is that practice and exposure are the keys to learning. If you want your child to learn quickly they will need to visit the pool regularly. How regularly? Recommendations are, apart from your regular lessons, you should aim to get them in the pool two or more times per week. While your child can learn basic swimming skills quickly it does take time for young children to swim by themselves, don’t rush the process it is all about building good swimming skills, focusing on the basics like breath control, balance, submersion, floating and propulsion. Swimming skills must be repetitive and it is vital to develop good skill execution. Lots of repetition is necessary to develop good muscle memory.
It is the best investment that you will make. Not only will it make your child safer in the water, it truly is a gift that will last a lifetime. Your child will go on in life to enjoy a huge range of either competitive or recreation activities around the water including swimming, boating, fishing, and surfing just to name a few.
Once your child is able to swim 25 metres and is over 8 years old, they can then learn lifesaving skills, which enhance their own personal safety in the water as well as teaching them how to help others.
Saving a Life:
Did you know that around 400 people needlessly drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury, some life changing, through near-drowning experiences. Putting this into context, one person dies every 20 hours in the UK. Drowning is also the third highest cause of accidental death of children in the UK.
How can you protect your children?
Once your child is able to swim 25 metres and is over 8 years old, they can then learn lifesaving skills, which enhance their own personal safety in the water as well as teaching them how to help others. Lifesaving explores water safety, gradually gaining independence and confidence while learning vital life skills. Lifesaving will inspire and embolden your child, helping them keep themselves, their friends and their family safe in the water. If your child is confident in the water and aware of water safety they will know how to avoid danger, which will give us all peace of mind!
Lindie Bosch, Head of Born to Swim at M&S Sports Services in Dubai