14th September 2017. Humans might be land animals, but the reality is many of us spend an awful lot of time in and around the water. From those who make it their job to those who make it their hobby, water activities are popular worldwide. Swimming is an activity many of us take part in at various points in life, especially during our school years. Later, it can become a way to stay fit and to have fun. All of that requires skills that start somewhere, though. When should you begin developing confidence in the water with your children? It might surprise you to learn that you should start as early as is safe! Water confidence for your baby might seem like a silly idea at first; they may not have even taken their first steps yet. Even so, spending time in the water can have many benefits. As your child grows older, you can also look at more formalised swimming classes to ensure they learn the skills necessary to swim safely. Being in the pool could even become a regular family activity. It all begins at a young age, and we'll look at the whys and how you can do that below. First up, what's the rush to get in the water?


Why should every child learn how to swim?


While your baby won't learn skills for independent swimming for a few years, there are several reasons to both start now and to continue teaching swimming skills as your child ages. For the youngest children, though, there is one key reason: it can help improve their cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that time spent in the water, which is an environment full of new and complex sensations, stimulates the growth of new connections between neurones in the brain. It might seem far-fetched at first, but swimming can help prepare your child for intellectual challenges later in life. Self-confidence improves for children who spend time in the water as well. It isn't just about feeling confident enough to be safe in the water; swim lessons seem to equip young children with valuable skills beyond treading water. By boosting self-esteem and improving self-control, swimming is an activity that fosters healthy emotional development in children, too. As your young child explores the water, they also learn important boundaries and bond with you in the process. Plus, when it's hot out, everyone loves a chance to cool off with a dip in the pool; it's important to remember that having fun is important too.


When should your child begin learning to swim?


It?s a question that many parents have, and it can be difficult to find a reliable or consistent answer. Some community pools offer swimming lessons for parents and babies just six months old. Six months is probably the baseline for the youngest at which you want to introduce your baby to the water; before that age, the risk of an accidental drowning is too great, and the benefits are small. Some paediatricians recommend waiting until one year of age before you begin swimming lessons. In either case, research into the subject shows that the risk of drowning decreases dramatically for children who take swimming lessons by about age four. There are also "swim survival" classes for infants, though these take on a different and less enjoyable approach for many of the children involved. However, it can help to prevent drowning by teaching young children how to float on their backs. In the end, the question of "when should I bring my child into the pool?" is up to you, the parent. Judge for yourself when they are ready, and if you are especially unsure, consult with your paediatrician or doctor. A professional opinion can provide peace of mind and give you the encouragement you need to get started.


The role of swimming classes for your child


What should you keep in mind when signing your child up for swim lessons, especially if they are still an infant or a toddler? First, look for a reputable swim centre or organisation offering lessons. You will want to be able to bring your child to a pool that you can trust is kept clean, especially since young ones tend to swallow plenty of pool water; it's vital that this water is as clean as possible. Otherwise, your child could contract a brief but unpleasant "recreational water illness." The water temperature also needs to be somewhat warm; too cold and it can be a risk for your child. Swim classes should focus on fun, learning, and encouragement. There should never be pressure on your child to do things in the pool with which they are not comfortable. If participating in a class that allows parents into the pool too, you'll be able to observe this first-hand. As your child ages, spend some time watching a lesson before you decide it's the right one. For parents and babies, these classes are often just simple, repetitive motions to allow the child to get a "feel" for what it's like to be in the water. There's nothing quite like the sound of your child giggling with laughter as she glides through the pool in your arms.


Going to the pool as a family


When your children have developed some confidence in the water, making semi-regular trips to the pool as a family is a fun activity. When you go, you should keep some important things in mind. As before, always try to choose a pool with a good track record for water quality. Try to avoid pools on the busiest days, as it can create a stressful and uncomfortable experience, especially for young children. Bring along a dry, clean change of clothes and fresh towels. Establish clear boundaries with children old enough to navigate the pool area on their own. Be sure they understand they shouldn't run, or else they could slip and hurt themselves. Keep them away from deep water unless they are old enough and have exhibited clear swimming skills. Otherwise, stay with your young children and supervise all their activities. Never leave a child unattended in the water. Why not come up with some fun games to play? Bring along some pool toys to add even more fun to the afternoon. Whether the kids just want to splash around, make up their own games, or you have something in mind, it helps your visit to be an efficient use of time.


Building a swimming kit for your baby


So, if you're going to do all of this, you'll need to have the right swim equipment for your baby, too! A swimsuit that fits well is the first thing you need to acquire; your baby should be comfortable, and the suit shouldn't be too tight. If you plan to swim outdoors, pick up sun protection as well ? a hat and some kid-friendly sunscreen will do the trick. Swim shoes are also an option if you have concerns about their feet; they're easy to use in the water but still provide protection on dry land. For very young children, swim nappies can be an important part of your travel kit, too. Floats of all kinds are something kids love ? whether it's a float designed specifically for infants or just "water wings" for an older child, they're both fun and an essential safety item. With a float, you won't need to hold your child in the water at all times. Instead, they can happily float around on the water as they become more confident. Don't forget the toys mentioned a moment ago, either. Swimming is fun, but it's even more engaging for kids when you bring along something colourful and exciting.


Make a splash and have fun together!


With so many potential benefits for your baby, developing their water confidence from an early age is a good idea. Whether you have your own pool or access to a community aquatic centre, it's important to take slow, careful, and measured steps as you acclimate your baby to the water. Soon, though, you might find that they're the ones having the most fun. The opportunity to dress your child up in a cute swimsuit is one many parents will relish as well. Make continued development of swimming skills a priority as your kids age, too ? you never know when you might kick-start a lifelong passion. Maybe you're raising the next Michael Phelps!