Everyone in my family could swim when I was a kid, but I was so afraid of the water. Then one summer, as a teenager I just taught myself and never looked back.
I fondly remember taking Jade to our community pool when she was maybe four years old and she was terrified, screaming and quite literally losing it. I felt helpless knowing she needed lessons, but I couldn’t afford them at the time.
Jump two years later, Naima & Zaire were a month old, my photography business was well underway and I’d grown a bit of a following online so I pitched to AquaTots swim school offering content in exchange for the kid's lessons and they said yes!
Here’s everything I’ve observed enrolling Jade who is now 7 going on 16 and our twins who started at four months.
Learning to swim should be a more encouraged and accessible skill for babies and kids. The most obvious benefit of baby swim classes is safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4. Even more alarming, drowning rates for African American children are almost three times higher than those of white children. Additionally, Hispanic and Native American children are also at a higher risk of drowning compared to white children.
By teaching your baby how to swim at a young age, you are providing them with essential skills to stay safe around water. Baby swim classes can teach your baby important water safety skills, such as holding their breath, floating, and paddling.
However, these classes offer so much more than safety. In fact, baby swim classes can be a fantastic way to build trust, communication, and confidence.
Building Trust: Probably the most surprising and standout aspect of the lessons are that they build incredible trust between you and your little one. When your baby is in the water, they are completely reliant on you to keep them safe. Holding the baby in the water, making eye contact, and communicating with them through touch can help build a strong bond and sense of trust. One of the exercises we do weekly is to sit the babies on the edge of the pool, step back, and count; “1 2 3 come to me” and they are supposed to jump in the water for you to catch them. Watching the twins’ brain development before my eyes with this exercise has been so rewarding and definitely a locked core memory for life. Particularly Zaire loves this exercise he always gives me a big smile just before he jumps in, and he knows I’m gonna catch him and reward him with a kiss on the cheek!
Non-Verbal Communication: When in the water, you and your baby are communicating in a nonverbal way. This can help you become more attuned to your baby's needs and desires. For example, you may notice when your baby is feeling nervous, excited, or calm by their body language and facial expressions. Another weekly exercise is to drop a toy ring on the steps of the pool and dip the babies’ heads underwater for them to grab the ring and come back up. Naima LOVES this exercise, and it never ceases to amaze me that at one years old, she gets it every time. However, a few weeks back she kind of tugged at my swimsuit and wrapped her arms around me after a dip. I knew she wanted a break, so we stopped and instead, I held her body just above the water simulating floating, and just swayed her back and forth. She loved this and smiled at me and actually looked zen.
Promoting Confidence: Learning to swim at a young age can also promote confidence and a positive attitude towards water. As your baby becomes more comfortable in the water, they may feel more confident in other areas of their life. This can help set a positive foundation for their future development. This rings so true for all three kids but specifically for Jade. Before swim lessons, she could be described as timid and shy, but after lessons, we see her being bold and more open to trying new things and believing in herself.
I can’t recommend lessons enough, safety being the most important factor, but also it’s been such a rewarding experience in my motherhood, bonding with each child. Being in the pool with them, I’m automatically 100% present, focusing on their safety and, development and encouraging our oldest to reach new heights and to ‘keep swimming’.