You should start teaching your baby to swim after 6 months old, in a positive, caring way. Sharing bath time and visiting your local pool are good ways to develop your child’s water confidence and safety skills. Ideally your local pool will have a shallow pool for babies and toddlers.
Water Safety New Zealand advises that babies should be 6 months old before swimming in a public pool because:
their immune system protects them from diseases
they can hold their head up, and their ears can cope with water
their body can cope with the changes in temperature that go with undressing and getting wet.
Make visits to the pool and being in the water enjoyable and fun.
You, or another caregiver, must be in the pool with your baby.
Teach your child some simple water-safety rules.
Wait before they get into the pool, and walk, don’t run, when they’re near a pool.
Let your child enjoy and gain confidence in the water.
Your child can start swimming lessons. Encourage them to learn at their own pace. Let them experience the water and gain confidence in one thing before they learn something new.
Remember that lessons and being able to swim don’t stop your child drowning. If you can’t teach your child to swim yourself, ask about lessons at your local swimming pool. Many pools have swimming lessons for children.
Visit the swim school before your child starts lessons, meet the teacher, and talk about anything that may affect your child’s lesson.
Even small babies should wear swimming clothing. Nappies are not appropriate because they hold water and can become heavy. Putting children in proper swimming clothing teaches them that visits to the pool need special clothes and they can’t just jump into any water they find.
Think about hygiene and safety. Children who haven’t learned to use the toilet should wear special pants or pull-ups, so that they don’t pollute the swimming pool.
Blow up rings or tyres are not lifesaving devices. Stay with your child when they’re swimming, no matter what.
For further information, and resources, please contact Water Safety New Zealand, phone (04) 801 9600 .