An Intro to Infant Swimming Lessons

infant learning to swim in an Endless Pool

Teaching water safety to kids is an essential part of parenting and responsible pool ownership. Yet many families are unaware that even infants can be taught how to swim.

Swimming lessons for infants have increased in popularity as more people realize the benefits of having an added layer of protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported in 2010 that formal swimming lessons reduced the risk of drowning by 88% for children between the ages of one and four. In the interest of water safety, families should know how infant swimming is taught, plus the benefits it can have for their child’s development.

Benefits of Infant Swimming
Teaching infants how to swim goes far beyond the benefit of making sure they can survive an accidental entrance into a pool. Early experiences with water will instill self-confidence in children that can influence their entire lives.

As infants learn to swim, their muscles are strengthened, and they improve their coordination. Water also provides a sensory experience that can stimulate neural connections within the brain that influence cognitive and physical development.

It is also important to note that infants who practice swimming with their parents and instructors will increase their level of trust, which can enhance their social experiences.

Survival Swim Skills Infants Can Learn
Parents are often surprised to discover that infant swimming lessons can begin as early as six months of age. At this early stage, great care is taken by instructors to help infants acclimate to the water. The first few lessons may simply involve an infant floating in their instructor or parent’s arms while receiving verbal affirmations.

As infants between the six months and one year old become comfortable, they can learn the following skills:

  • Hold their breath under water.
  • Roll over from a face-down to a face-up position for a back float.
  • Continue to relax in a float while breathing until they are assisted by an adult.
  • Perform these maneuvers while fully-clothed.

After infants reach one year of age and have mastered the previous skills, instructors can also teach them to do the following:

  • Swim with face down toward stairs or a parent.
  • Roll over onto back for breathing mid-swim.
  • Flip back onto stomach after breathing to continue the swim.
  • Use a ladder or steps to exit the pool safely while fully-clothed.
  • Understand water safety rules, such as walking instead of running near pools and only swimming with an adult.

It's getting close to that time of year again. Time to start searching for an ISR instructor for your little one (or to start thinking about other forms of swim lessons in your area). We're partial to ISR for several reasons, but our main two are the complete exclusion of flotation devices and other swimming assistance tools, and the ideology of teaching your child to survive if they fall into the water, no matter the circumstances. Here's Everett, at about 1.5 years of age, swimming on his own. Last year, he also learned to roll over from a float, swim, then roll back to a float, until he reached a point of safety. This year, he'll re-learn the same thing, and he'll get even stronger at it. I can rest assured knowing that my son can save himself after falling in the water if something were to happen where myself or Andrew (or any adult) were not present to rescue him. I stress it every year, and I'm stressing it again this year: find swimming lessons in your area, and sign your child up! ISR starts at 6 months and goes to 6 years. Most instructors will very generously work with you if you're unable to afford the fees. Think about it and do it! #ISR #infantswimmingresource #infatswim @infantswimmingresource #swimlessons #toddlers #toddlersofinstagram

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Formal Lesson Techniques
Infants require specialized teaching techniques due to their still-developing language acquisition. Since infants cannot speak, it is important for instructors to carefully follow their body language cues to ensure that they are comfortable.

Formal infant swimming lessons are typically kept to short, enjoyable sessions that may also involve the parent for added comfort. During the lesson, an instructor will show the infant what they want them to do. Then, they will offer verbal praise every time the infant performs the skill correctly.

Repetition is important at this age, so parents can expect to see the same skill practiced again and again until it is mastered. Instructors for infants are also sensitive to each child’s ability to learn new skills and may tailor lessons to fit their needs.

It is also important to note that infants in a quality swimming program are never tossed into a pool and forced to swim for survival. Instead, infants are slowly guided into independent swimming through strategic step-by-step lessons that build upon the child’s developing skills.

Supporting Survival Swimming at Home
Families are often encouraged to continue practicing their child’s swimming skills at home to help them continue to develop confidence in the water. The continued repetition of survival skills also helps reinforce the concepts taught in formal lessons.

The Infant Swimming Resource provides the further recommendation that families should ensure that their home swimming area is set up in a way that promotes water safety. For example, non-slip surfaces should be installed around the perimeter of the pool, and a fence or childproof cover should be in place to prevent children from entering the water without an adult’s supervision. Pools without childproof covers should also have alarms installed that will signal if movement is detected in the water.

It is also essential for every family member that provides pool-time supervision to learn life-saving CPR and first aid skills in case of an emergency.

Teaching Infants to Swim in an Endless Pool
Endless Pools® are often gathering places for families that enjoy having a comfortable aquatic environment for at-home swimming and family time. Families with infants can utilize their Endless Pool’s features to teach swimming in a safe environment.

For example, perimeter benches can be used to teach kids how to find a place to stand with their head above the water, and the shallow depth increases comfort for infants who may initially be apprehensive about new water experiences. The swim current can also be adjusted to low so that infants can enjoy gentle full-body stimulation as they swim with their parents.

When the swimming sessions are over, secure childproof covers can then be put in place so that families have total peace of mind.

The Takeaways
Swimming is one activity that every member of the family can enjoy. Parents can share this enjoyment with infants six months of age and older by enrolling them in a survival swimming class.

It is well known that survival swimming skills greatly reduce a child’s risk of drowning, and a quality swimming program can be found in most communities.

By taking a proactive role in teaching water safety and swimming skills to their child at an early age, parents can ensure their family’s continued enjoyment of spending time in their pool while stimulating their baby’s development.