We’ve (well, I’ve) been going to Water Babies swimming lessons with N since he was almost 3 months old. I think that means we’re pretty qualified in sharing thoughts on the differences between baby swimming and toddler swimming (and I’m talking toddler through to preschool age here). Is there really that much of a difference or is it that much of a transition?
Obviously it very much depends on the child, how frequently you go swimming outside of lessons, and how much external things or developmental stages impact the child’s learning and progress. N is a fairly stable child in temperament normally, but put him in a swimming pool and anytime he hits an obvious developmental stage, he takes water wobbles to extremes.
So, what are the differences and similarities then (in my opinion)?
- Follow the parent’s lead in the water
- Milk timing is essential
- Changing room nightmares
- Crying [/left]
- Independent children
- Toilet timing
- Shower struggles
- Talking [/right]
Babies are a lot more predictable than toddlers. The parent’s in control, and most babies seem to enjoy being in the water, therefore causing very few hassles during the lesson. The hardest bit in the lessons is how to stop them slipping out of your grasp. In our lessons most wore neoprene baby wraps/wetsuits which helped solve that issue.
To me, baby swimming was all about the preparation before the lesson, essentially milk feeds and naps. Having to feed earlier or later to fit in with lessons, and then naps as well. N wouldn’t really have a specific milk time, so it was really hard to judge whether he was ready to feed or not at the time I needed him to. We always found that he needed a nap before a lesson (we had afternoon lessons), but often I’d have to set off earlier and do a long winded journey rather than the 8 minutes it should have taken, to enable him to fall asleep and nap in the car.
The changing room situation can also be traumatic when you’ve a baby. At the pool we swim at, there are communal changing rooms, and small ones at that. With 30 minute lessons, and needing 20 minutes to realistically get yourself and a baby ready to swim, it’s cramped when you’ve likely still got an earlier class getting changed to leave. In ours there’s one changing table, otherwise we all used a mix of solutions for finding somewhere to put your baby while you got changed. Propping them on the benches (until they were rolling all over the place), or on foam mats or changing mats on the floor, and hoping that noone stepped back on them. At least with babies, you don’t have time to feel self conscious as they can’t talk and give their view on what you look like!
There is the potential for crying though – although N was always fine in the changing rooms afterwards, some babies cried as soon as they were wrapped in towel and being dried.
We found as soon as N started pulling himself up and then walking, moving up to his toddler classes, he became a lot more unpredictable. Water wobbles whenever he had a growth spurt or big development leap. Made all the more worrying when noone else in our lessons seemed to be going through the same. From one week to the next, you may never know how your toddler will react to the lessons.
Becoming more independent out of the water means that they also want to be more independent in the water. Or some toddlers do. N still likes to cling intermittently and that causes potential flashing opportunities whenever a toddler decides to grab at the top of a swimming costume.
N’s independence manifested itself more in obstinacy and refusing to do certain activities. This ties in with the talking issue. Once toddlers start to get their handle on language, they never stop. I pity the teachers trying to teach over the sound of 10 toddlers all wanting their say. Half the time N is singing away, half the time chit chatting about any old thing. But rarely about what he’s meant to be doing.
Once they’re toilet trained, you then need to rethink timings again. N never wants to go to the toilet before leaving home, he always wants to use the toilet at swimming. Strange child. So that means setting off a bit early while he decides what he’s doing. But if he’s in the pool, and decides he wants the toilet, I have to work out if he really does, or if he’s just saying it. And if he does need to go, it takes longer than you think to haul both of you out of the pool, take him to the toilet, hope noone else is using it, strip off his wet happy nappy (which even when dry is hard to pull on and off), let him do his thing, the do everything back in reverse to get back to the lesson before it’s over. What a faff, although I’m very relieved I no longer have to guess these things.
My final difference is the showers. As a baby, you don’t tend to shower them, just dry them and get on with it. But once they’re toddlers, they seem to either love or hate showers. N won’t go anywhere near them, although likes watching other people in them. He thinks it’s hysterical when I’m in the shower in my swimming costume, and he’ll always ask if the teacher’s going in the shower. But the other children in our lesson love the showers and their parents then struggle to get them out afterwards. You’d have thought they’d have got wet enough during the lesson.
However, there is a big similarity between the different ages, and that is food. As babies it was obviously milk, as toddlers it was whatever was offered up. I rely on N needing a snack so he’ll sit nicely while I get changed and before I help him get dressed. It’s hungry work, all that swimming!
What differences have you found with swimming as your children have got older? Any tips for making the move to them going into the pool on their own as we’ll be doing that in February?
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Disclosure: We swim with and blog for Water Babies. All words and opinions are my own.