Bryony Johnstone from Water Babies considers the best age for starting your baby’s swimming lessons
At what age can a child swim properly? It’s a question we get asked a lot at Water Babies, and it’s all down to water confidence and core strength.
Firstly, it rather depends on what you mean by ‘swim properly’. Thanks to innate reflexes, babies can swim under the water from birth. But to be able to swim on the surface, lifting their head to take a breath, little ones need a degree of strength that comes with age. As with everything, that age varies from one child to the next, but toddlers from the age of around two-and-a-half years start to be able to swim front paddle on the surface and breathe as they go.
The strength that a toddler needs to lift their head while swimming comes from the core. If you’ve done exercise yourself, you may know a bit about core strength. This is a deeper layer of muscles around your abdomen, back and pelvis that supports your body to sit, stand and move and do many other physical activities.
Like any muscle, you can strengthen your core through exercise. And guess what? Swimming is one of those fantastic core strengthening activities. Because you’re supported in the water, you can move your body in ways that you can’t on land. And this is especially true for babies.
In fact, Water Babies’ research has shown that babies who swim from birth are ahead of the curve in reaching physical milestones like sitting and walking. That’s because they swim from babyhood, practising core-strengthening activities in their lessons.
A matter of confidence
However, having good core strength is all very well if your toddler won’t put their face in the water. Making sure your child is confident under water is a big deal when it comes to swimming and also water safety. Swimming regularly from a young age, dipping under the water in a fun, gentle, controlled way means that babies and children will not only love the water, they’ll also be calm and comfortable no matter what.
That first width
One of the very first things we teach at Water Babies is how to prompt babies’ natural reflex to hold their breath. And as they grow up, we teach them how to control their breath. That means that when they are strong enough to swim their first width, they can gently exhale under water and then lift their heads to breathe.
And that first swim across the pool is pure magic! It’s often that moment when parents tell us ‘this is what it’s all about it’. Because there’s nothing that makes you – and your toddler – prouder than learning to swim together.
By the age of two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years old, most Water Babies can swim short distances on their own, taking a breath as they go. Swimming since babyhood, they’re confident, able to control their breath and they have developed that wonderful, strong core.