This is a bit of a weird post, I suppose. I ran it past my hubby initially, and he thought it was a bit long-winded to just talk about taking The Munchkin to his first swimming class. But I’m posting it because I think I would have liked to have heard someone’s experiences of taking their baby swimming before I attempted it myself. Part of it is, because I have anxiety, I don’t like not knowing exactly what I’m going in to. I’m very much a planner, and I like to read up on things as much as possible as preparation. My anxiety is exacerbated by the unknown and a lack of control, and I combat this as much as possible by over-preparing. So, hopefully my over-zealous account of what is a fairly straightforward outing for most will help someone out there!
It has taken us a while to get The Munchkin to swimming lessons. But we have finally taken the plunge, so to speak. We’ve had our first classes with Turtle Tots in Edinburgh. It has been a game of two halves, with The Munchkin loving the initial splashing about and singing, but then trying to crawl out the pool in fury when he gets tired. I don’t think it helped me pointing out where Dad was sitting at the first class…cue much anger when I wouldn’t let him go to him during the lesson. My bad.
But the classes are great and I think he will get a lot out of them. They combine play, singing and basic swimming techniques to get kids used to the water. Most of the kids in our class were a bit older than The Munchkin, but this toddler programme is definitely at the right stage for him. The instructor is good at giving you alternative moves to do if your little one isn’t quite there yet as well. The aim of the game is to build confidence and I think they will be brilliant at doing that, whilst also being a lot of fun. We can already see an improvement in his confidence in the water.
The classes are thirty minutes long, and that is probably the ideal length. It’s not enough time for the kids to get bored, but it was enough time for The Munchkin to get tired out. I think he’ll build up his endurance for it over the weeks, and there was no pressure to push them any further than they wanted to go, which was good. The mix of activities tended to keep the wee ones entertained, and I noticed that a few of the children who were on their second block of classes were really enjoying themselves, so I think perseverance is the name of the game. It is an environment which will take a bit of time to get used to, but the pay-off will be huge.
I am really keen for The Munchkin to enjoy swimming and being in the water, as I always loved it when I was a kid. It’s so much easier for them to learn when they are younger too, and will hopefully be safer for him as he gets older. I know several adults who have a fear of the water, who don’t enjoy swimming or can’t swim. And without exception, each one wishes they enjoyed swimming or had been taught to as a child. So, I want to make the effort to get The Munchkin used to the water and learn how to swim. It’s not something I’ve felt hugely comfortable with until now, as the thought of getting myself plus a baby organised before and after the event was just too much. I’m not even going to get into my feelings on the cleanliness and hygiene of most swimming pools and changing rooms. But I think we are at the point where we can give it a go more regularly now. Here’s my top tips for if you are attending swimming classes, or braving the pool on your own schedule:-
- Find a pool with a pleasant temperature. There’s nothing worse than plunging in to an ice bath with an unsuspecting baby. The very first time we took The Munchkin swimming, we had asked around and been advised by other parents of the warmest council pool in our area. Off we trotted as a birthday treat (!) for my husband. Our first swimming trip, how exciting! Even the receptionist commented on the warmth of the water. So, imagine our surprise when we dipped our toes in the cool water, and then our consternation when The Munchkin’s arms started to turn purple…not the best first experience. Unfortunately, it’s mainly a case of try your luck to find a warm pool, or do the following:-
- Get your little one a wet suit. The Munchkin is a bit big for this now, so we haven’t tried one, but if I had been taking him regularly to classes when he was smaller I definitely would have purchased one of these. They keep your baby 1-2 degrees warmer, which doesn’t sound like much but might just stop them turning purple and you feeling all the guilt. I also recommend a proper swim nappy, such as the Splash About Happy Nappy. We have one of these, and it is really great for helping me feel less anxious about poo explosions occurring in the water. They also look like your child has just stepped out of the Victorian era, and I like that as a swimwear look.
- Put your swimming costume on at home! That way you can concentrate on getting the baby ready at the pool. Don’t make the mistake of getting them ready at home, as the disposable swimming nappies aren’t designed to contain poonamis or the like. As soon as there is anything deposited in them, they need changed to avoid leakage, so don’t waste your time and money putting them on for the journey to the pool. At least if you just have to whip off your clothes at the other end, keeping them occupied for that time isn’t as tricky and then you can get them organised more quickly. Just remember your underwear for afterwards (I always worry I’ll forget to pack that)!
- Similar to no.3 but wear flip-flops if you can. It’s just so much easier than faffing about with laces. It also means I can go poolside with The Munchkin at his classes, without having to leave my trainers in the changing room.
- And again, related to no. 4. If you are tag-teaming the swimming lessons like we plan to, think it through before and split the tasks. I didn’t do this, so I took The Munchkin in to get changed, took him in the pool, then took him back to get changed and myself organised. Whilst my husband enjoyed a bacon roll and coffee. What every other parenting group did was share the fun – one took their kid to get changed, whilst the other got themselves ready for the pool. Then they met poolside (no shoes allowed) and one went in the pool with the kid for the lesson, whilst the other can grab a coffee, and not distract by sitting in sight! At the end, the valet-type, coffee-drinking parent can meet the thrill-seekers poolside again, and take the wee one off to get changed. Which will hopefully avoid me having to try to get dried whilst attempting to distract a toddler from jamming their fingers in locker doors, running on slippy floors (we’ve already had one fall and one near-miss…), touching bins/heated straighteners/manky plug holes etc. Genius!
- If your kid is easily distracted, or automatically switches allegiance of preferred parent to the one they are not currently with, like The Munchkin is prone to do, then make yourself scarce if you are the poolside parent. I stupidly pointed out where my husband was in the viewing gallery at the start of the first lesson, getting The Munchkin to wave. This was great for showing off whilst he was happy and energetic, less great when he was knackered and trying to commando crawl out of the pool towards the viewing balcony.
- You can wear your glasses in the pool! This never occurred to me before – I don’t know why, and you are all probably thinking I’m completely mental for not realising this before now. I even took my prescription goggles with me, and looked like a prize plum wearing them for the first 10 minutes, before I discarded them in favour of a more-blurry-but-less-embarrassing experience. My eyesight isn’t completely terrible, so it wasn’t too bad not having glasses on, but it just had never occurred to me to wear my glasses in the pool. I think because usually I would want to go under the water, but I was forgetting we weren’t going all Michael Phelps at this juncture, and I could probably afford not to get my hair wet. My husband told me later that I looked pretty dorky in my goggles, especially as two of the other parents were just wearing their glasses. You live and learn (and possibly don’t look any less dorky, but hey).
- Keep smiling! I think this is the best advice to make your little ones feel more at ease in the water. Make it fun, splash about, don’t be worried about getting your hair wet. Sing songs, and keep them laughing. If they get water in their eyes or mouth, make a joke of it, blow bubbles in to the water. Just keep them thinking the whole thing is a game, then they’ll be less likely to get upset. I know from experience this isn’t easy, especially when your wee one has become overtired and just wants the whole thing to end ten minutes before it’s due to. I did feel a bit daft grinning and singing when he was getting increasingly furious (there were real tears, people), but what else can you do? Crying yourself is not an option.
- Get properly ready back at home. I don’t know about you, but I had neither the time nor inclination to do my hair or makeup in the changing room. The Munchkin certainly would not have tolerated that kind of self-indulgence, so I literally dried myself and threw on my clothes. I made sure to wear slouchy joggers and a sweatshirt, so I looked as though I was going for the casual, sporty look when really, I was just being tactical and a bit lazy.
- Take a snack for afterwards. And something for the baby (LOL). We used to call this a shivery bite when we were wee. Yes, that is a real thing. I remember we used to get money to use in the vending machine at the local pool, and I scored big time when I got two packets of Cadbury’s Tasters out of it instead of just one, as they’d got caught up in the machine (#winning). Those were the days…These days, I take a mini banana malt loaf or an oat bar and raisins for The Munchkin, whilst The Husband and I settle for Krispy Kreme’s. The things you do for your kids, eh?
What have been your experiences of taking your wee ones’ swimming? Do you have any top tips for parents about to take the plunge? What are your post-swim snacks? Let me know in the comments!
DISCLAIMER:- This is not a sponsored post. I have not been paid or provided with freebies in exchange for this post. The views expressed are all my own.