Here's to the Water Babies! The benefits of having kids that swim!

I’ve become a human Lilo!

I step out of the shower in France to find 2p sized bruises all over my thighs. Confused by these new formed coloured blobs I crack on with the evening… Until the next day in the pool.

Macklyn and Maggie are using my body to jump off, kick off and, frankly, as a lilo. Gone are the days of armbands, float vests and rubber rings. My children are confident slippery seals who will throw themselves into any pool, down any slide and will hold no mercy in taking them with me! Both children have been in lessons since they were just 4 years old and even in the lockdowns I managed to order a paddling pool that was big enough to teach Maggie to float in.

It wasn’t until this year when I found Jo, an outstanding local swimming teacher, that they really learnt to swim. Swimming lessons at your local public pool don’t cost that much. It’s on average £40 a month per child, and most pools operate a system whereby the children have a sense of achievement as they move up a level. The cost, however, is no more than getting your nails done once a month or a few bottles of wine and the benefits of your child learning to swim far outweighs any price tag attached.

Swimming Teaches Safety Skills

A friend of mine once said, when crossing over to the Isle of Wight: ‘could you imagine looking down into the water and knowing if you fall in you could die?!’. Dramatic I know, but he had a point. I have spent my life in the water, and it never occurred to me how a simple crossing from Southampton to Cowes could incite fear!

Within the first few lessons with Jo, both Macklyn and Maggie (and myself) had started to build a great relationship with her. The kids loved her and I had every faith in her style and approach. After a few sessions, Jo switched approach from teaching traditional swimming to water safety. She walked both of them down to the deep end of the deep pool. (At this point, I'm thinking that Jo was going for an early morning swim going in after Maggie.) She then got them to jump in, turn on their backs and get out of trouble. And Jo remained dry!

It's worth remembering that, in the UK, one-fifth of people that drown are under the age of 14. Let's put it another way: swimming is a life-saving skills that every child should learn.

Swimming Benefits For Health

Maggie will never be a runner, given she is the mini version of me, but she will be on the water competing at some sort of water sports! We asked her recently what she wanted to be when she is older, she responded: a pro-surfer or a magician (of which both could work together, surfer by day, magician by night?). Swimming is a fabulous cardiovascular activity: kids’ lungs and hearts significantly improve. So, whilst Maggie doesn’t enjoy the ‘daily dash’ (class run!) at school, she gets her exercise in the pool. Regular swimming may also improve health issues associated with childhood obesity and improve balance and flexibility - perfect for the wannabe surfer/magician.

Swimming Helps Kids To Develop Confidence

We all worry about our children’s mental health, and about their self-esteem. When Maggie had her first swimming lesson at just 4 years old, she stood on the side of the pool and point blank refused to get in the water. Lesson 2, she decided that she needed the toilet of which she managed to take 25 mins of a 30 minute lesson trying having a poo. Lesson 3 she got in, and loved it, her fear had disappeared and she had forgotten the anxiety that she first felt. Her head was under the water, she was giggling, and loving every second. The skills we learn as children to overcome our fears start in the pool. Our self-esteem is elevated, and we learn to handle situations by taking those first few steps. Now Maggie loves the water, she loves to snorkel, mess around, and use me as a diving platform! Her confidence in the playground is a reflection of the confidence and development she has found in the pool.

Swimming Improves Kids’ Mental Development

When we first started swimming with Jo, we suddenly saw a huge leap in the link between their mental development. Where Jo has worked wonders is the link between mind and body using examples that they understand to bring it all together. Macklyn would get his kicking right on one length, and then on the next length he would get his arms right, but together he would look like he was trying to run his tummy and pat his head at the same time. Jo helped Macklyn understand the link between the two and this in turn significantly improved both his and Maggie’s brain development and intelligence. Regular swimming improves brain and emotional development through stimulating their senses.

Swimming Helps Kids With Stress

Kids can develop a great routine around swimming. This, in turn, leads to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Swimming also releases endorphins in the brain which helps control and lower stress. We also put swimming at the heart of our holiday planning. It's become a must that a resort has a pool, but also has access to a beach. This is a key driver for the children in achieving the next level. We have been very lucky as, before the kids went to France this half term, Jo did a couple of flipper sessions with both Macklyn and Maggie in the pool, giving them the confidence to practise their snorkelling skills in the pool in France.

Top 5 Tips to get your kids swimming

1) Lose your fear as a parent. Swimming teachers know what they are doing! We as parents can quite easily transfer our fears onto our children, especially when water is involved. I remember when Macklyn first started swimming, a parent said to me, ‘I’m ok that he stays at level 1 for a bit’- why hold your own child back in their development? Let them improve at their speed.

2) Try and try again. This is going to sound harsh but I will say it anyway. If your child tries it and doesn’t like it, it is NOT ok to use that as an excuse. You show up next week and the week after until they get in the pool. As parents, we have become soft and use ‘They don’t like’ it as an excuse. Would you say the same about brushing their teeth or wearing a seat belt if they didn’t like it?

3) Don’t be a pool side WAG. Whilst we can all use the 30 mins to check our email and have that cup of tea we urgently need, understanding what they have been practising in class and continuing it at home is important. Use videos to show them what to do or just show them what they have learnt in the paddling pool.

4) Get them to pick the kit / Get a swim Towel. When kids get a bit older give them the choice of what they want to wear in the pool, pick out a costume or trunks, pick out their goggles and a swim bag. Give them ownership. As kids go up levels, get a swim towel so you can sew their badges on!

5) Pick a swim teacher that works for you and the kids! This is the single most important thing. Find a teacher that the kids enjoy and understand, and also one that you have 100% confidence in. We are so lucky to have Jo, she will be with us for years to come, I have so much confidence in her and her ability to get Macklyn and Maggie to be brilliant in the pool, and, most of all, I trust her. If I am happy and relaxed, the kids are too

Happy swimming!

Tested by Tots X

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