After participating in the best part of 30 baby swimming lessons with Water Babies, I like to think that I’ve come up with a few shortcuts, hints and hacks to ensure that Toddler L is as happy as can be when it comes to pre, during and post swimming.
Although the majority of the time she’s loved being in the water, the journey hasn’t always been plain sailing and there’s been a few tears along the way. Thinking back on our Chapter 1 and 2 swimming lessons to date, Toddler L has gone through a few unhappy stages that we’ve had to overcome. Like most things baby related, these are often just phases related to her development.
For instance, she went through a spell of being really clingy during Chapter 1, then hit the dreaded ‘water wobbles‘ phase as we started Chapter 3 after previously loving being in the water. We’ve also had the odd meltdown in the changing room when, for instance, I’ve dared to put her down in order to dry my own dripping wet, naked body. There’s an image for you ladies and gents!
So, here I present to you my top four hints, tips and hacks in order to give your baby / toddler the best possible chance of loving the water:
When going swimming, my mantra is very much ‘get in, get changed and get out as quickly as possible’. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy swimming – far from it. But the longer you’re there, the more chance you have of a bawling baby or tantruming toddler.
I’ve found that the more layers you have, the more hassle the whole process becomes (incidentally, it’s not just swimming that that applies to!). As such, when we go swimming, we wear as little layers as we humanly can without crossing the line into indecency and the wrath of the authorities.
My swimming attire probably makes me look homeless, but I’d much prefer that than dealing with a whiny baby. Before I set off, I strip down to the basics. I put on my swimming shorts, a pair of jogging bottoms, a hoodie and slip on Converse. That’s it. No socks, no t-shirt, no boxers, no shoes with laces.
The same goes for the sprog. I normally prefer her to wear proper clothes during the day, but swimming is an area I’m happy to relinquish on. I therefore keep her in the baby grow she wore that night, so that I can get her dressed and undressed rapidly and easily. This is key when you’ve just got out of the pool – your little one is going to be cold and tired, so the last thing you want is to be making them crankier by putting on socks, trousers, a vest, a top and any other non-essential clobber.
Just be a bit wary on the journey home and avoid anything that can snag your trousers, as the no boxer shorts method will mean that you’re now going commando…
Ensure Plenty Of Sleep
No matter what situation you’re in, having a baby lacking in sleep often results in extra crankiness, irritability and annoyance – and that’s not just the parent. Therefore, ensuring that your little one has had all of the zzzzzz’s they need before going swimming is critical to a happy baby in the pool.
You might just be able to get away with a tired baby in other circumstances, but as swimming is both physically and mentally draining, you need to ensure your sprog brings their ‘A game’. How would you like to be dunked underwater whilst already being in a bit of a groggy, moody state? Where possible, this means making sure that your little one has had a nap just before heading to the pool. Be it in their bed at home or in the car en route to the lesson, having a well rested baby is vital – I can’t stress that enough.
Our Water Baby classes have always been at 9.30am – as the sprog now wakes up at 7.30am and goes to bed at 10.30am, we’ve learnt that she’s had enough sleep prior to the lesson and is generally happy. A few months ago though, she was waking at 7am and going for a nap at 9.30am, so swimming massively impacted her routine. What we decided to do instead was get her up an hour earlier, then put her to bed at 8am so that she’d have a decent nap before we left the house at 9am.
Even though this was a little annoying and robbed me of a bit of sleep, we soon learnt that this was more favourable than a screaming baby in the water!
Stuff Their Face
Much like ensuring your sprog is well rested, I’ve learnt that a full baby is a happy baby. Again, this isn’t just true for swimming, but for all walks of life. If there’s even the slightest bit of unhappiness, I tend to just ram a bit of food in her mouth which quickly makes her quiet – either because she was hungry or because she can no longer complain with a full gob. I’ll admit though that I do slightly worry that I’m on course to create an obese monster child as a result. Ah well, surely a fatter baby is more buoyant for swimming?
In practice, what this means is giving yourself a bit of time prior to swimming to line your child’s stomach. Be it a boob, a bottle, a breadstick, a banana or a bacon and brie burger, just make sure that their belly is brimming. Due to the time of our morning swimming classes, we’ve found that a hearty breakfast is enough to keep her happy until lunch.
However, if you’re going swimming when it doesn’t tie with with a conventional meal time, a quick snack should give them enough of a calorie boost to ward off any hunger pangs. Top that off with another snack straight after swimming and jobs a good ‘un. In no circumstances though should you take food into the water with you, or get a loved one to throw scraps from the side of the pool for your little one to catch in their mouth like a performing seal. You know, just in case you weren’t sure.
Changing Rooms Are Better Than Soft Play
OK, bare with me on this one. As a 15 month old toddler, the sprog needs a lot of entertaining. Her brain is developing so quickly that every day she learns new things whilst cementing the things she learnt the day before. The times of getting her to lay or sit still are long gone, so you’ve got to come up with new, improvised ways to keep her entertained as you try to get things done.
By viewing the changing room as a giant adventure playground, you can use the stuff around you to look after your kid whilst you dry and change. During the last six months or so of swimming lessons, Toddler L has been entertained by a mirror, the hand dryer, the reflective bin, the taps and the toilet door. Maybe not the most conventional of baby toys, but certainly up there from an entertainment factor.
Toddler L’s latest ‘game’ involves the lockers. Standing on the wooden benches, she opens a locker, climbs in, closes it behind her, then opens it again with a huge giggle. Whilst she’s busy entertaining herself with this, I’m free to get dried, changed and ready to leave, obviously remembering to retrieve the fruit of my loins from the locker first. Yes, shutting your kid in a small, enclosed space which resembles a coffin probably won’t win me any parent of the year award, but it definitely helps to ensure she has a fun time swimming!
These are the four main things I’ve learnt from swimming lessons with the sprog over the last six months. What things have you learnt? Have you any tips, tricks or hacks to share? Let me know below!
Edit: We have continued Water Babies swimming lessons. Here’s a more recent review of Chapter 4.
Like this? Then you may also like other swimming-related content such as overcoming water wobbles, 4 mistakes to avoid when swimming with a toddler, baby swimming versus toddler swimming and 4 things I’ve learnt from baby swimming lessons.
N.B. We receive complimentary Water Babies lessons in exchange for sharing our swimming experiences.