Oh I was a sight, in the pool, swimming with three under 5’s! People must have thought I was completely bonkers and I think I probably was! But, I was determined that my kids would be far more confident swimmers than I was as a child. Consequently, they were in the pool as new-borns, with K (first born) after her initial jabs but with the others, I was advised it was safe to take them in sooner, so they were in from a few weeks old. I think you’ve got it right when your children don’t remember learning to swim, in the same way that they don’t remember learning to walk!
Though, I learned to swim as a child, it has never felt easy. With many of my friends being competent swimmers, I was swept along to a life-saving course, which absolutely petrified me but I’m so glad I did it! Later, I became a level 1 swimming teacher (another string to my bow of ‘sports coach’) and taught for a while in leisure centers and schools.
It’s all about being confident in the water. Children pick up on your fear and will then be afraid. If they go under unexpectedly, pull them up with a big smile and tell them how clever that was. If they see it’s no big deal, they’ll have a cough and possibly a huge guttural burp (hilarious when they are so little!) and carry on.
Swimming with a new-born
Up to 5months old, babies have an automatic reflex to hold their breath when submerged, so this is the ideal time to do it. Remember, they were living in fluid not so long ago! A little trick I learned is to blow in their face just before submerging and also to use a vocal cue eg. Lucy ready, 1,2,3- then blow and submerge. Soon they hold their breath without the need for the blow. Even though I knew they would automatically hold their breath under 5months, I was more confident to submerge, seeing them take that last breath and close their mouths.
Swimming with a toddler and a new-born
We spent a lot of time on the steps of the baby pool playing with sinkers and poring water over Lou’s head. K (nearly 3) could just touch the bottom of pool and by this time she was water confident and could get back to her feet from horizontal. I wouldn’t recommend taking a toddler swimming for their first time on your own with a new-born. We used a noodle to get K swimming front and back while I followed her around with Lou on one arm, who loved the water and even fell asleep on occasion!
Preschooler, toddler and new-born!!
Most pools wont let you in with three under 8, even if they can swim. It seems ridiculous to me, as they will then allow any 8 year old or older completely unsupervised, whether they can swim or not! To get around this, I took the younger two, while K was in a lesson. This meant that we had to go in the big pool, consequently, the Boy was happy jumping in and swimming back to the side before he was 2. I would definitely recommend spending some time in a pool out of their depth, if they can’t touch the floor, they have to swim!
Having put the effort in early, now the Boy is 4, I can read a book by the pool on holiday, reassured by the knowledge that the kids are all safe in the water- bliss!!
- Choose a warm pool- you will be doing a lot of standing/ sitting around!
- Invest in a neoprene swim suit for your child- they are happier if they are warm!
- Don’t forget swim nappies, but remember they aren’t water-proof, just designed to keep solid stuff in!
- Best not to use armbands as these are restrictive and hinder swimming. Ideally, avoid floatation aids that attach to the child and instead use a noodle tied in a knot for babies or under armpits for toddlers and older. Noodles enable a better swimming position in the water (more horizontal than upright) while keeping them at the surface.
- Use pool toys (sinkers, floaters, watering cans etc) to distract, entice and bribe!
- Float jackets are great for holidays, when the kids are playing in the pool but not for learning to swim as they encourage an upright (rather than horizontal) position in the water.
- Invest in a towel dressing gown for you (you’ll get them for the kids but forget yourself!)- put it on as soon as you get out (you are now warm), dry and dress the kids, give them snacks, you are now dry and can dress in peace while they eat!
- Take snacks for changing – a must especially when you end up having to feed the baby in the changing room because it’s ‘one of those days’!
Do you have a handy tip to share? Have you attempted swimming with three or more young children?