How to Nurture Your Baby's Love of Water

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When parents nurture their baby's love of water, babies grow up to be safer in the water, and they learn to swim earlier. Early exposure will benefit your child throughout his or her life and will help your child avoid a fear of water. Early water play builds the foundation for swimming, a healthy fun activity and a skill that can save a life. Scientific Proof of the Benefits of Baby Swimming

Water play is a developmentally appropriate activity that you and your baby can enjoy together. There are numerous benefits to playing in the water with your baby. Here are a few:

  • It's been proven that warm water and gentle exercise can help your baby sleep and can stimulate your baby's appetite.
  • Babies are also more relaxed in water, and it's a fun environment for babies to develop strength, to exercise, and to explore balance and buoyancy.
  • Babies are well adapted to swimming and are born with a "swimming reflex." When placed on their tummies in warm water, babies will move their arms and legs in a swimming motion. By encouraging this, you can help baby transfer these involuntary movements into coordinated swimming movements.
  • Water play is a multi-sensory activity. Babies use all of their senses to explore water: sight, sound, touch. They also engage their sense of balance and muscular movements and pressure. So Much More Than Clean
  • Your baby's brain is developing rapidly. When you expose your baby to water environments, your baby is more likely to have successful water experiences in the future.

How to Introduce Young Babies to Water

Avoid fear. Many children come to Little Fishes Swim School with a fear of the water. They're hesitant around our pool and they're nervous, sometimes terrified, of putting their faces in the water. Babies are not born afraid of water. Fear can develop if infants and young children are not exposed to water or if parents teach their kids to be afraid of the water.

Make water play fun. When playing in water or bathing your baby, keep your attitude relaxed and happy. Babies can sense stress from your facial expressions, body posture and tension, and your voice. Babies will respond to these nonverbal cues. Take a deep breath and relax. Sing some songs and be playful with your baby in the water. This will help your baby associate water with positive things. If baby cries in the bath, comfort your baby and try again another day. But don't give up!  Consistency and repetition is the key to developing comfort with a new skill.

Create a comfortable environment. Play in clean, clear water. Soap and chemicals will irritate your baby's eyes. Make sure the water is warm (82-92 degrees), so your baby can relax and feel comfortable. Support your baby's head and neck so his or her spine is in alignment. Remember that when you are close by to assist, accidental submersion will not harm your baby.

Splish-Splash. Help your baby build comfort and confidence in the water by dripping water on his or her face.  Help your baby anticipate the water by saying, "I... 2... 3... drip" or by singing a verse of a song right before you drip. Babies might be startled when you squeeze a washcloth or sponge near their faces, but if baby shows signs of distress, distract the baby with a toy or song. As your baby gets used to water, increase the amount of water dripped and gradually introduce splashing. Babies love to splash, and it provides yet another opportunity to increase their comfort level in the water.

Floating. Once baby is comfortable being wet, especially around his or her face and head, jump in the bathtub with baby! To expose your baby to the feeling of buoyancy, hold baby lying on his or her back, face up. With your thumbs on top of baby's shoulders and your fingertips underneath their torso, encourage them to look up at you and

stretch out. Their head should be tilted back so their ears are partially submerged. This will provide additional sensory stimulation and the unique sensations of moving and balancing in water. Swish your baby to and fro (be sure to support baby's head, especially if he or she is younger than 4 months old). If your baby goes underwater it's OK. Remember, brief submersion will not harm your baby. Repeated swallowing, chocking or coughing can, so if your baby is swallowing water, stop the activity.

Additional water fun. Once your baby is comfortable floating, try side-swishing. Turn baby so his or her ear is in the water, but continue to cradle baby's head. You can also try tummy time in the water. Watch baby track an object, then reach and grab for a colorful bath toy. Play peek-a-boo by putting your own face in the water to "hide."  You can also practice kicking. Sit baby on your lap facing away from you, hold his or her legs and move them in a kicking motion while saying, "Kick, kick, kick!" Once your baby is comfortable with splashing and playing in the tub, take your child into the shower with you. Your baby will learn to hold his or her breath as water hits her head. Again, start slowly. Let water splash over baby's back, then over the back of the head, then baby's head and finally baby's face. Proceed only once your baby is comfortable with the previous step and not coughing or swallowing water.

Hit the pool! By doing these activities with your baby, you're helping him or her make a smooth transition to a pool. At 2 months, you can enroll your infant in a class at Little Fishes Swim School. You will learn water acclimation techniques and other skills to help your child continue to thrive in the water.

Please remember that no child is ever drown-proof. Never leave a child unattended near any amount of water.