When Can a Baby Learn to Swim?

It’s a question that a lot of parents ask and it’s one that you can imagine I like to talk about. I am a big supporter of getting infants and toddlers into the water early, for several reasons:

  • Accelerated social, physical and learning development
  • Stronger parent-child bond
  • Reduction of drowning danger

When Can a Baby Learn to Swim | Kathleen McMordie Infant Aquatics Katy TexasThese benefits are all supported by recent scientific studies. But most parents have safety in mind and want to know how early is too early?

Six months old is a good benchmark to consider getting your baby in the water: at that age most babies have developed the head control necessary to perform basic infant water survival exercises, including roll-to-back-float. Six months is also a time when babies become more mobile outside the water – for homes with pools, this means they can accidentally find their way into the water and get into trouble.

You would be amazed at what a 6-9 month old baby can accomplish in the water! They can hold their breath underwater, intuitively roll-to-back-float, open their eyes underwater to explore, and more. They develop a comfort in the water that serves them throughout their childhood and into their adult lives. It is also incredibly rewarding to see the fun that parents can have getting involved with their infants in the water, developing such a wonderful bond and creating memories that last forever.

When Can a Baby Learn to Swim | Kathleen McMordie Infant Aquatics Expert Katy TexasToddlers at 12-24 months can do even more and this is a perfect time in their development to learn actual swim skills that can save their lives. 1- and 2-year-olds are fully capable of entering and exiting the water on their own, swimming underwater unassisted, and back-floating for extended periods. It also becomes easier to see the skills they will use outside of the water: comfort and curiosity with other children, ability to follow directions, and physical strength and confidence.

Don’t wait for some arbitrary age, your baby can swim a lot sooner than you think – it’s good for them and it’s good for you!

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Lead Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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Studies Show Widespread Benefits of Water Lessons for Kids

Studies Show Widespread Benefits of Water Lessons for Kids | Kathleen McMordie Infant Aquatics Katy Texas

Everyone touts the safety reasons why swim classes for kids are such a great idea but now researchers are proving that there are even more benefits, including one you might not guess off the bat.

As you may recall from a January blog post, early water lessons for kids have been proven to help them learn and perform better at school. The brains over at Griffith University Institute for Educational Research looked at 200 kids age 3-5 – most of the group early swimmers and the rest not – and actually followed their progress for two years, using testing and interviews to get a handle of how they were doing in their cognitive development and performance in pre-school and school. They found out the swim class kids were developing faster and doing better than the others.

In addition to this academic evidence of the benefits of swimming lessons for kids, many parents credit these programs for helping their children in other ways. From increased confidence and participation in other group activities to a healthy respect and appreciation for the water, kids swim programs can help develop essential social skills in a fun, non-traditional way.

Often times, special needs children respond to water therapy and swimming lessons in an even greater way that other kids their age. By providing a safe, zero-gravity environment to learn and explore motor skills, the swimming pool offers a unique opportunity to develop verbal communication.

So if you’re going over in your mind the decision to begin parent child swim lessons, or infant water survival skills, or even casual outdoor water play for toddlers, know that by getting your child into the water early you are giving them a gift that pays off for years to come. Early swim is a difference maker – we can help your kids learn to swim, and help your kids just learn.

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Lead Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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CPR for Drowning Prevention

As a child swim instructor, I regularly review the basics of CPR for drowning prevention. The statistics demand a pro-active safety attitude with children in the water:

CPR for Drowning Prevention | Kathleen McMordie Infant Aquatics Expert Katy Texas

However, CPR for drowning prevention is knowledge everyone should have, especially parents of children who are frequently in the water. Here’s a summary of what you need to know along with some helpful resources to learn more, and be sure to check out our water safety worksheets for kids to get them up to speed.

  • The first and most crucial point: if someone is drowning or is having difficulty after being pulled from the water, ask someone to call 911 immediately. If you are alone, administer CPR treatment for at least two minutes before making an attempt to get help.
  • Be aware of your own safety, including dangerous water conditions. You can’t help someone else if you get yourself in trouble.
  • CPR for drowning must include assisted breathing along with chest compressions. “Hands-only CPR” is a recent technique that applies primarily to victims of cardiac arrest. Drowning victims suffer from oxygen deprivation and need breaths to boost their chance of surviving.

Remember that swimming safety for kids is something they can participate in actively. It’s critical for parents and caregivers to know the basics of CPR for drowning victims, but kids should be taught as soon as they are able to learn: not only will they have a greater personal understanding of the importance of safety in the water, they may be able to save a life as this 11-year-old girl recently saved her 8-year-old sister using CPR for drowning.

Click here for our Water Safety Worksheets for Kids.

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Lead Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

Fun Water Safety Activities for Kids

Laughter and enjoyment are the gateways into a child’s heart, so I always use pool games as a way to introduce water safety activities to kids. Here are a few of my favorites because they are effective for teaching toddlers important swim safety lessons, and the kids have a blast playing them. These games can be enjoyed by all swim skill levels with adult supervision – always remember to keep an eye on children in the pool during any swim activity.

Simon Says (allows you to practice a variety of water survival skills)

This is the game played in parks and backyards, brought into the pool. Call out a swim safety skill: “Simon says do a back float.” “Simon says get your face wet.” “Hold the wall and get back to the steps!” Anyone who answers a command without “Simon says…” has to sit on the steps.

Red Light, Green Light (teaches comfort and movement in the water)

Another one brought in from the playground, line the kids up opposite: “Green light!” allows the kids to come to toward you as fast as they can, “Red light!” means they have to stop and anyone who doesn’t goes back to the start. Each round you can change the way the kids get across the pool: the first round is paddling in the water with a swim noodle, second round use a kickboard, third round walk with faces in the water…

Fun Water Safety Activities for Kids | Katheleen McMordie Infant Aquatics Expert Katy Texas

Timed Treasure Dive (teaches comfort underwater and holding breath)

Scatter dive toys on the bottom of the shallow end and take turns: each player has to the count of five to get as many toys as possible.

These water safety ideas for kids also teach toddlers and children to listen to instructions and carefully follow specific rules, a valuable skill to develop both in and out of the water. Swim safety for kids is meant to be fun for adults too, so parents and caregivers go ahead and jump in and enjoy yourselves!

 

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Lead Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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Parent Water Anxiety Shown to Have Effects on Children

Help you child become comfortable in the water by overcoming your own water anxiety!

As a mother of four, I know how important it is for parents to feel comfortable with their children swimming in a pool, lake, or even a bathtub. Water safety should be a priority and individual responsibility for each member of the family throughout the year. You can help your children to be safe in the water by showing your own respect for the water and confidence while swimming. Since many children imitate the behavior of parents and older siblings, make pool time a family affair to encourage safe swimming.

Not comfortable in and around the water? Texas Swim Academy offers a few tips for overcoming adult water anxiety and enjoying regular parent-child swim time:

Surveys suggest that nearly two out of three adults are uncomfortable being in water over their head – if that describes your feelings in the pool, you may be passing on your fears of water to your child. This is a good time to remind parents that a positive attitude is crucial to teaching children swimming skills and water safety.

If you struggle with anxiety in the water here are some steps to increase your comfort and hopefully pass that on to your children:

Familiarize yourself with having your face in the water. This is one we teach to all early swimmers and it builds confidence in adults as well. Stand in the pool, place your hands Parent-Child Swim Benefits | Adult Water Anxietyon the side, and practice taking a breath and putting your face in the water. Goggles may help your confidence, use them if you need to.

Practice submerging yourself. Begin by holding the side of the pool and dunking yourself for a few seconds. Extend your time underwater; work your way up to letting go of the wall and settling on the bottom for a few seconds.

Spend more time underwater. Now that you are comfortable on the bottom, stay down a little longer and look around at the other swimmers. Take your time. Toddlers in our classes, some as young as eighteen-months, will often submerge themselves and look around curiously at what is going on around them. Keep practicing to increase your comfort and the time you can spend underwater.

One more tip: Swim with a friend if you can, even if they just sit poolside and watch.

Remember, successful swimming is not about propulsion: it’s about breath control, balance, and buoyancy. Comfort in the pool is important, as relaxed swimmers make better decisions underwater and are ultimately safer. These are among the most important lessons that can be passed along to your child.

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

Modern Research Supports Common Benefits of Infant Aquatics

New research continues to support age-old findings regarding the benefits of early-child swim programs.

This may be old news to parents of toddlers in swim classes: research data supports swimming as beneficial to infants and very young children, specifically in developing balance, fine motor skills, and movement capabilities.

This study comes to us from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Lancaster University. Comparing two groups of 19 babies each – identical except that one group was enrolled in swim classes and the other was not – the study noted the swim group performed markedly better at tasks involving balance and movement, including walking on tiptoes, balancing on one foot, jumping rope, catching a beanbag, and more. Children were tracked from early infancy through to five years of age.

Benefits of Infant Aquatics | Infant Aquatics Expert | Kathleen McMordieFor the 19 swimmers, activities began with those typical of many swim and water therapy classes: back-floating, diving underwater, jumping onto a floating mat, jumping from the pool edge, etc. At age 5, swimmers and non-swimmers were run through an identical battery of tests to gauge performance: the group of swimmers performed almost uniformly better and demonstrated advanced development of motor and balance skills.

Beyond developing physical skills, the study credits swim classes with introducing to children skills they will take with them into pre-school and school, including listening and learning techniques.

We have abundant anecdotal evidence that babies enrolled in swim classes get a developmental leg up versus non-swimmers, however this is one of the first studies to support observations with hard data. With another recent study that links early swimming with improved cognitive development, there is more reason than ever to advocate for swim classes beginning in infancy.

Just be careful not to tell the kids that swimming is good for them… that is the only way they could find a reason not to enjoy it!

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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Swimming Study Shows That Aquatics Programs Create Smarter Children

In addition to the health and wellness benefits, early-age swimming lessons have proven to show a marked effect on intelligence. 

Child development professionals, swim advocates, and parents take note: a team of scientists and researchers from the Griffith University Institute for Educational Research have discovered a link between getting into the pool at an early age and accelerated development of cognitive skills in children. The study applied two study phases over a three-year period to a group of nearly 200 children age 3-5 in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The  preliminary interview phase Benefits of Swim Lessons | Kathleen McMordieincluded parents and was used to create a context to measure development differential between children who participated in swim activities while young with those who didn’t. The second phase involved direct testing of the children, to precisely measure cognitive development and capabilities without potential of parental bias.The study notes that to date this is, “the world’s most comprehensive study on kids and swimming.”

For the children who were involved in swim activities at a younger age, here is the takeaway from the Griffith Institute Early Years Swimming study:

  • Visual motor skills – drawing lines, making shapes, cutting paper, etc. – were markedly improved.
  • Oral expression, literacy, and numeracy were conducted with better skill and confidence.
  • Cognitive and linguistic skills in general demonstrated significantly greater development.
  • Enhanced skills are those typically deemed most necessary for success in a pre-school or school learning environment.

Results held consistent across gender and socio-economic lines, revealing a broad-based capacity for early swimming to positively affect cognitive development in children. This study is one of the first to offer verified research data in support of early swimming for children; add to that the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of early swimming therapy for kids, including development of socialization skills and accelerated physical development, and you have a powerful argument for getting children into the water as early as possible.
And of course it doesn’t hurt that swimming is fun for kids, too!

Kathleen McMordie is an Infant Aquatic Survival Master Instructor and water safety specialist located in Katy, Texas. Show owns a full-service aquatic facility, called Texas Swim Academy. Through a variety of programs, Kathleen and her staff of instructors at Texas Swim Academy strive to introduce children to water at an early age through INFANT AQUATICS, and to fully develop their swim stroke abilities through adulthood through STROKE DEVELOPMENT.

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