Parenting Perspective: Swimming with Sienna

Thursday, April 01, 2010

This week I took Sienna for her first swim lesson. It was so much fun!

She absolutely loved the water and couldn't get enough of all the splashing around. In fact, at times it almost appeared as though she was kicking her feet and pulling the water back with her arms!

When I say swim "lesson", it's really a loose term. The half hour class is more about getting the little ones acquainted with the water and having fun singing songs and playing games. Sienna was the youngest one in the class and there have been some who have questioned whether she was too young to actually enjoy it. After her reaction during class, I knew signing her up this early was the right thing to do.

The lessons not only serve as a great way for her to interact with other children, but it will help in suppressing any fear she may have of the water. In addition, there are several benefits to swimming and exposing babies to the water early. Many experts believe swimming improves social, emotional and physical development as well as cognitive and motor development. These swim lessons are also a great way for Sienna and I to get out of the house and spend some time involved in a fun activity TOGETHER.

I started doing a little research because the more I thought about the topic, the more it made sense to get Sienna involved in more "skill-based" classes. I came across this website: This is called the infant swimming resource. This concept teaches infants from ages six months to a year some life saving skills in the water. For example, babies are taught to "self-rescue" themselves if an accident were to happen. It may seem early, even impossible to teach a baby this young to "swim" but certified instructors say it can be done. They teach these babies what they call "survival skills", infants learn how to float on their back in the water and breathe no matter what position they enter the water in. There are many, many parent testimonies on the website. According the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in infants and children. However, AAP also cautions that children are not ready for skill based swim lessons until age 4.

Check out this link:;105/4/868.pdf It states that "Infant and preschool programs have been developed by such organizations as the American Red Cross and the YMCA. These programs which focus on aquatic adjustment and swimming readiness skills, may also include water safety instruction for parents and guardians. They provide enjoyment for parents and children but were not designed to teach children to become accomplished swimmers or to survive independently in the water."

As far as programs like the infant swimming resource, the AAP state, "Currently, no data are available to determine if infant and toddler aquatic programs increase or decrease the likelihood of drowning."

There is also criticism that if a parent believes a child has these skills at a young age, the parent or guardian may unintentionally become less vigilant about their child's safety around water.

Bottom line, regardless of what kind of skills you teach your child at any point in their life, no swim lesson or technique can offer them 100 percent protection from water danger. Although I wouldn't discount enrolling Sienna in one of these courses, for now, the fun and games of a "lighter" style swim class are enough; but regardless of what age Sienna develops her water skills, her parents will never take her safety around the water lightly.

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