BABY’S FIRST STROKES
Until the age of 4 years old children do not have autonomy or enough development to swim by themselves. However, it is highly recommended that children familiarize with water since they are born. It is sure that babies enjoy playing in the water which is good for them. It helps them with their coordination, to keep their balance and their muscle strength. It also helps to keep them calm, to eat and sleep better. They are so many indispensable advantages that encourage parents to swim with their children no matter the age they are.
At what age should they start?
Up to 4 or 5 years old children are not able to swim like an adult. They are too small to develop autonomy in the water and acquire the proper movements necessary to swim. Therefore, it is very important to make the difference between to have a bath having fun with parents and learn to swim.
Babies, since they are born, can play in the sea or in the swimming pool with their parents which is funny and beneficial. However, it is recommended to wait up to 3 or 4 months of age. In addition, some swim schools do not accept children up to 6 or 7 months since their installations are not suitable enough for children with 3 or 4 months old.
When babies are 9 months of age the innate reflexes decrease. These reflexes, however, are very useful to swim. That is why it is highly recommended that children meet water before their first birthday. Their adaptation is smoother than older children.
Isaac González, chief of aquatic activities from Lenoarmi Centre, states: “The ideal thing would be that children start before 4 months of age since they preserve innate abilities that promote their adaptation to the aquatic medium. Babies can float on water, move their bodies in a relaxed way and they keep apnea reflex which consists on closing the glottis. Doing so, babies can not swallow water or have the sensation of choking”.
The natural fear of water develops as the child grows up. For that reason it is very convenient to expose the child to water as soon as possible to prevent lack of trust or even worse, phobia to water which cause difficulties when learning swimming.
Matroswimming means swimming with parents. It is the best way to initiate a baby in an aquatic medium. Children enjoy a lot playing with water which, at the same time, is beneficial for them.
The parents’ role is crucial in this method. Parents should show security at all times with their babies. Emotional ties are strengthened and it becomes an original and unique experience.
Nevertheless, parents should wait until the baby is 4 months old so that immune system matures enough to prevent colds, infections, otitis, etc.
Every class of matroswimming lasts what the school considers. The class usually takes around 30-45 min depending on baby’s resistance and reflections. In these classes children play with teaching materials (balls, boards, etc) which are adequate resources to their age. Children have the opportunity to learn how to survive in water and float.
For instance, in Valle 36 Centre, they follow the teaching model based on the “pedagogy of success”. Here the instructors let the children make contact with water and be ready for summer, so that children get used to water, overcome fears, develop physically and mentally and enjoy the enriching familiar contact.
Instructors are physiotherapists and childhood educators. They are constantly following babies’ evolution setting exercises individually and taking care of their necessities. Groups are maximum of 4 children (accompanied by their parents). They interact with each other promoting their personal development and socialization.
Isaac Gómez, from Lenoarmi, establishes 3 main objectives in these classes:
1- Learning how to deal with water.
2- Working to ensure surviving.
3- Fostering autonomy.
In Lenoarmi Centre children from 0-3 years perform the activities with their parents. From 3 years onwards children do by themselves autonomous programmes.
First practices can be performed at home in the bath from 2-6 months old. The best way to do it is to fill the bath and go in with them. There is no point in thinking about techniques or activities. The aim is to have fun and let the children familiarize with the water.
Swimming pools formal requirements.
The pool must follow some rules to provide the best adaptation to babies’ physical characteristics:
1. Water temperature must be around 32º C depending on the season.
2. The level of chlorine must be around 0.5 and 0.6 % (1% for adults).
3. It is highly recommended a covered and heated pool. It must also meet the sanitary and hygienic requirements.
4. The changing room area (the place where parents change their babies) must also be a heated area and meet the hygienic requirements too.
5. If the changing room is far from the pool it is convenient to have some benches near the pool to change the baby in the heated area so that children can stay warm.
6. Baby’s pool cannot be shared with others. It is just for them. The dimensions should go around 6 by 4 metres, although these figures are not an established rule. You can find many others with other sizes.
Benefits of swimming
– Psychomotor development: It improves coordination, equilibrium and knowledge of space. It helps to increase strength thanks to the muscle exercises. It promotes an early development of psychomotor skills such as crawl or walk.
– Strengthening of Cardio Respiratory System: It is beneficial for cardio fitness and therefore, it improves baby’s resistance. It helps to expand respiratory system and the proper regulation to their blood circulation.
– Relaxing babies: Gentle exercises together with warm water enable the baby to be relaxed, stimulating the appetite. They eat and sleep better and, therefore, it improves their character and behaviour.
– Reinforcing their confidence and independence: Baby feels confident and enjoys learning swimming since they are accompanied by their parents who are constantly paying attention to them. It increases his feeling of independence and his self-confidence.
– Enhancing intelligence quotient: It is proved that children who swam within the first two years of live develop a better awareness of the world what makes them to be more creative and observers. Water stimulates playing capabilities in children. This fact will impact positively in future apprenticeships.
– Developing vital abilities of surviving.
– Fostering socialization skills: It stimulates self-esteem and therefore, it improves communication with others. The coexistence with other kids will help them to interact better, to share and do activities with other people.
– Strengthening their immunologic system.
Learning to swim
From 4-5 years old children can learn to swim like an adult, not only to float. It will depend on their physical and mental development. The best way to do it is going to a specialized centre.
– Dads or mums must be very relaxed and calm especially with children below the age of three years. Baby will be supported by his parents’ hands. If these hands are rigid, the baby will be tense which prevents them to feel comfortable in the water.
– High demands are not desirable. Every child is different and develops according to their natural mature rhythm even in the water. It is important not to demand them more than necessary. We need our children to feel comfortable and willing to do the activities proposed.
– It can help them to do activities and games in the water which they enjoy and have fun with.
Directora y fundadora MÉTODO LENOARMI
C/ Dr.Roux 19-21, Barcelona