US Olympic swimmer and proud dad Michael Phelps has shared his seven-month-old son’s introduction to the pool.
In a Facebook live video from the Baltimore pool where Michael was first taught to swim, the Olympian shared Boomer’s third lesson.
The video goes for more than 10 minutes but about three minutes in we see little Boomer put his face under water as he is guided back to his dad by the swim instructor.
While a little unsure at first, Boomer quickly relaxes once back in his dad’s arms. The smiley baby can be seen pulling on Phelps’ beard or even relaxing into a nice nap in between swimming attempts. Not that we can blame him, being cradled in a warm pool sounds very relaxing.
Phelps’ goal is to help his son become “water-safe, relaxed and comfortable in the water” as soon as possible, but they are just in the beginning stages of that process he explains.
Boomer’s model mum, Nicole Michele Phelps can be heard off camera as she films her son getting comfortable in the water with her husband and instructor as his guide.
Watch the full video below.
(If you’re having trouble viewing the video, check it out on Michael’s Facebook page here.)
Given Australia’s warm climate, beach and swimming culture, learning to swim is an essential life saving skill.
Babyology spoke to swim teacher Jacquie Rodney from Aynsleys Aquatics Swim School in Richmond NSW to find out the best approach.
Here are her tips:
Never too early to start getting babies used to the water
It is never too early to introduce baby to the water.
“Water can be very therapeutic at any age so an early start would be the key,” she says.
“As soon as they are born you can start at home in the bath with different conditioning exercises such as letting the water be around their ears and letting them feel their own buoyancy in the bath.
“Obviously you never leave your child unattended around water at any level of swimming, but just support their head and let them experience the water.
“Babies are surrounded by fluid in the womb so they usually love being in the water straight away.”
Lessons can begin from four months of age
For hygiene reasons babies shouldn’t swim in a pool until about four months of age, when they’ve had all their immunisations, advises Jacquie.
“Given pools are chlorinated, we don’t usually see babies in the pool until between four and six months of age.
“If the baby is nice and relaxed in the water we start submergence by six months,” she says.
Make it fun
It is important children’s introduction to swimming is fun and positive.
“It’s all about getting children to enjoy the water and making sure they feel encouraged and supported,”says Jacquie.
“It can also be a really good bonding experience. Dads can do it, or nan and pop and carers – it doesn’t have to be mum.
“We sing lots of songs and make it fun and relaxing.”
Empowering for parents
Swimming lessons for children are also about empowering parents, especially first-timers.
“Kids feed off your vibe so if you are relaxed and you are comfortable, they will be too,” she says.
“It’s all about empowering the parent at that age as well. Sometimes, when they are a first-time parent or not used to the aquatic environment, they can be a little hesitant, so we try and help ease those nerves.
“We never force anything on the children, we do things at their pace and their level.”
Between the ages of six and 12 months it is less about doing laps and more about safety in the water.
“If they did sort of crawl off and fall in the pool and you didn’t notice, you had your back turned for a second, you want them to be able to have a good breath hold and roll onto their back and float or even do a prone float so they don’t get an initial shock, take in a heap of water and sink to the bottom,” Jacquie says.
“If you turn around two seconds later and they’re on the bottom, and you look everywhere but in the pool, by the time you realise they’re in the pool it’s usually too late.”
Ideally, with early swimming lessons you want to get toddlers to a stage where if they did fall in they would have the skills to be able to float for ten seconds to give you time to get to them in that split second situation.
“As they get a bit older, you want them to be able to fall into the water, have good breath control, return to the wall and hold on and wait for an adult.
“Then as they get a little bit older again they can fall in, return to the wall and get out, which is even better.”
Professional lessons are a must
When choosing a swim school for their little one, parents need to ensure instructors are properly qualified.
“I would highly recommend AUSTSWIM qualified swim school and there are loads of them out there,” Jacquie says.
“Some are even specialised in babies, it is an elective they can do. I would definitely recommend a qualified swim school so they are doing all the right games and teaching the parents all the right things to do at home.”