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Baby Swimming Roadmap

Swimming with Smiles

Huggies Little Swimmers are leading a new campaign this summer called Swimming with Smiles, where parents are being offered new pointers about how to keep it fun and positive in the water.

With 50 combined years of experience teaching babies to love the water, Jenny McPhail and the Smart Moves team say we need to hold our babies close in the water, join in the fun, and let them lead the way.

“The water is so much fun for babies when they are safe in the arms of Mum, Dad or a family caregiver they trust. The key is to keep it positive and start early. Six months is not too early to start looking for the signs of readiness,” says McPhail.

“A child has to be ready to love the water, so look for the smiles. We encourage parents to get into the pool with their little ones on a regular basis, so that it becomes a new playground. Once the signals are clear, work at their pace and never ever take your eyes off them.”

Here are the Swimming with Smiles pointers, written by experts from the child’s point of view:

Messages to mum and dad:

Before we start, I need you to know...

  • When you are relaxed, I relax too
  • Show me how and I will follow you
  • When I see you having fun, I have fun
  • When I am in the water with you I need to see your happy face
  • Look for my happy face and we'll be OK
  • When we begin to play in the water together hold me close so I get used to the feeling of the water and learn to like it
  • I need to trust you when we try new things

Let's get comfortable in the water together...

  • Tell me what's going to happen before we do it so I am ready
  • Help me to splash the water gently so I feel it moving around me
  • Listen to my body when we are in the water
  • Sometimes I don't want to do things you want me to do
  • When you sprinkle water on me please start with my body before my head
  • Before you sprinkle water over my head, use the same prompt (like "ready 1, 2, 3") to warn me it is going to happen
  • When you shower water over my head, move the sprinkler away from me quickly because I will take a breath
  • When I get used to water over my head and face, let's splash together with more vigour

Look Mummy, I can go under…

Child’s point of view Notes to parents
* I will get in when I am ready. Don’t hurry your child to get in the water; give her plenty of time to adjust to the environment.
* Your body needs to show me you like the water. Body language tells a thousand stories.
* I like to have fun with you. Don’t expect your child to have fun if you aren’t prepared to have fun too.
* I can learn to control my breath from a very early age if I am not frightened. It is important for you not to show anxiety while in the water with your child.
* Hold me around my chest with both hands in a horizontal front position so I can see your face before we think about going under. It is important to have eye contact with your child at all times to communicate.
* Walk slowly backwards, holding me in a horizontal front position, as you gently lower more of my body and face into the water. Don’t push your child under when he is clearly stressed about it; NEVER be distracted from your child while in the water; don’t show your anxiety about your child learning to go under water.
* Hold me close and gently release my body weight when I am ready to go under. NEVER pull your child under; keep hold of your child at all times; don’t ever FORCE your child under the water, ever!
* Only keep me below the surface for a very short time when I start wanting to go under. NEVER submerge without communicating what you are about to do (i.e. no surprises)
* Gently pull me back to the surface so my head is above water again and I can see and smile at you. Don’t show your anxiety about your child being under water.
* When I go under the water, I may keep my eyes and mouth open and that’s OK! What is comfortable for you is not necessarily comfortable for your child. The child will do what comes naturally to him.
* I like doing things that you do in the water. Don’t expect your child to want to go under if you aren’t prepared to do it and be a role model.
* NEVER make your child feel bad if he doesn’t want to do something. We all come to things in our own time; NEVER compare your child with another.
* When I am little don’t ask me to blow bubbles because I don’t know how. I only know how to suck. copy

Swimming with Smiles

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CLEAN WATER: New Zealand's public pools are fun-filled, family-friendly places to start swimming with your baby. A critical part of making those first water experiences happy and healthy is clean water. So, pool staff around the country will be reinforcing pool rules this summer which require parents to put infants who are not yet toilet trained in protective swimpants, such as Huggies Little Swimmers. It's a simple way of keeping toddler and learner pools clean.

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