If you spent most of August like many people, glued to the TV watching the Rio Olympics, you were probably amazed by Michael Phelps and Katie LeDecky – two American swimmers that blew the world away with their accomplishments. Maybe their performances even got you thinking about swim lessons and the perfect time to start your little one in the pool! Though Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, many parents keep the poolside fun going throughout the year. Why? Well, Mommy and Me time in the pool is a great, enjoyable bonding opportunity for you and your baby. Additionally, learning to swim and water safety are important life skills, and many parents want to expose their children to these at an early age. For many moms – especially new parents – the $64,000 question is: When can I take my baby swimming? In addition, how do you go about it? While we can’t guarantee that your child will compete in the Olympics one day, we have some simple, easy tips to get you and your baby splashing around!
- What’s the right age? It’s often recommended that a baby be at least 6 months old before he goes in the pool. Why? By that time, a child is usually sitting up and has control of his head and neck. That control not only makes it more enjoyable for your baby to kick and splash about , but it also allows you to have a better, firmer hold on your child. For a child, the scariest thing about being in a pool is often that free-floating feeling so your confident grasp gives him the security he needs to enjoy pool time. While 6 months is often the earliest recommended age, you do not have to start that young. Many parents prefer to wait until their children are toddlers or older where as some like to start early. It’s truly a parental preference.
- Slow and steady wins the race: We’re not talking about Michael Phelps here but the approach to acclimating your baby to the pool. When introducing your little one to water, go slowly and begin with light splashing – a little on his chubby little legs and arms will get him used to the feel of the water. Once your baby is feeling more comfortable, let him dangle a few toes in the water, still keeping a secure hold on him. After all, you’re not only introducing your child to the water but allowing him to trust it. As you step further into the water, ensure your child is near you, feeling that skin-to-skin security that babies love.
- Be prepared: Taking a baby anywhere, especially the pool, requires lots of gear. So, come ready and don’t let your fun be ruined by a lack of preparation. Bring swim diapers, sunscreen (Top 5 Sunscreen Questions) and a fluffy towel. You may even want a change of clothes and some snacks.
- Make it fun: Sing songs, play games, play with child-safe pool toys – and SMILE! The point of the pool at your child’s young age, is to have fun and start a love of water. Going under or blowing bubbles should not be at the top of your list. Rather, enjoy some quality time with each other.
- Try, try again: For many children, the first time doesn’t do the trick. If your child isn’t wowed by the water, don’t worry. Give it some time and try it again later. Nothing says that 6 months is a milestone that each baby needs to meet.
And, what do you do if your baby doesn’t love the pool – even after multiple tries? Nothing! Don’t worry about it, don’t compare, don’t stress. As a parent, sometimes the answer to the question “When?” is “not now.” And that’s perfectly OK. Oh, and by the way, did you know that Michael Phelps didn’t take to swimming until he was 7?! You’ve got plenty of time!
Happy Pool Time and Happy Parenting!