Babies are born swimmers–literally. From birth, they possess two reflexes; the swimming reflex, which propels baby to move his arms and legs in a swimming motion whilst supported beneath the tummy, and the dive reflex, which prompts him to hold his breath and open his eyes when underwater.
But these reflexes aren’t strong forever–they don’t evolve on their own. At some point, your little one will need instruction to help develop safe swimming skills. If you want to capitalise on those early reflexes–when bubs will likely take to the water most naturally–and begin those all-important aqua lessons, it’s best to start within the first six months of life.* And besides the obvious safety reason for teaching your baby to swim, there’s some extended benefits for dipping in, too.
Motor skills development
The repetition of bouncing and splashing in the water helps to stimulate the vestibular system–the key area for balance, and thus the control centre for enabling baby to hold his head upright, pull himself up, cruise, and, eventually, toddle around (and wreak general havoc).
Hand-eye coordination is also strengthened as baby zones in on bright pool toys and practices grasping.
As any fitness expert will affirm, swimming is an all-round workout; and babies exercise far more muscle groups in the pool than out. Interestingly, this exercise translates into specific skills development on land–avid water babies can often begin crawling and walking before non-swimming peers.
Providing baby with the opportunity to learn a skill and build strength will boost his independence and self-confidence. And, just as the physical development attained in the water carries over into other areas of physicality, so too will the bolstered self-esteem transfer into other arenas–quite possibly gifting him a willingness to try new things and work to excel at them.
Finally, but not least in importance, is the chance to have fun with your tot. Keep it a regular thing to maximise on uninterrupted bonding time, and take pleasure in seeing your baby thoroughly enjoy himself.
*water should be 30˚C for a baby older than 12 weeks or heavier than 12lbs, and 32˚C if younger or smaller.