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Taking the plunge - top tips for swimming with kids


I took our son swimming when he was about four months old. I found the whole experience (other than being in the water) so difficult and stressful that I never took him again. Getting us both dressed for the pool, putting all our things in the locker, walking to the pool without slipping with my precious little first born, getting out of the pool, getting everything out of the locker, getting us both dry and dressed again... awful. He didn’t sit up yet so to put things in the locker I had to lay him on the floor - is this what everyone does? Was there a better way I could have done it?!

Anyway, 2.5 years later neither our son nor our one year old daughter have ever had swimming lessons and now as a more confident parent I feel sad that they (and I) have missed out on this special and lovely experience.

I recently spoke to some Mummy friends about their experiences with taking their children swimming and thought I’d share their tips. If only I’d known all this before…. How many times have you said that in your parenting journey so far!

  • Dress into your swimwear (both you and the children) before you leave the house. Don’t forget to pack your knickers and nappies/pants for the little one(s).
  • Choose your clothes wisely. Wear things that are easy to throw on to a still slightly clammy post swim body (again, for both you and the children).
  • Pack snacks if you’re partial to a little bribery. Probably more important than your knickers.
  • If you’re allowed, take bags and towels poolside so you don’t have to faff with a locker. If not then just take your time and take deep breaths. Pack your bags carefully. Think about the order of what you need things in after your swim.
  • Don’t expect to be in the water for too long. Babies lose heat more easily than older children so try not to be in for more that approx. 30 minutes if you’re with very little ones.
  • Forget about having a nice leisurely shower and washing/drying your hair afterwards. Yes, the showers are often lovely but this will have to wait!
  • Wrap them in a hooded towel and take a towel for them to sit on while you dress in the changing room. The towels will stay on and they'll be warmer than sitting on the floor.
  • After the swim, give snacks and water while they sit under their hooded towel to dry off. Dry and dress yourself and once you’re done they should hopefully be dry-ish and ready to dress (snacks definitely required here if you’ve got a rascal who won’t sit still).
  • If you can, go with a friend. It feels a lot less stressful if you’ve got someone to share the madness (and the loveliness) with.
  • Finally, go to the cafe and eat cake. And remember their happy little faces when they were splashing around in the water. 

If you’re still feeling nervous you can use armbands (from three months), floatation vests (from 15kg) and swimsuits with built in floats (from one year). You can also buy non-slip swim shoes if you’ve got a pool side runner.

Before I finish, it's worth noting that some swimming pools have rules about taking children swimming on your own. They vary from place to place so check before you go. I believe the general gist though is that one child needs to be able to swim. I know it sounds obvious but I've been busy fretting about how I would take my two on my own until this delightful rule means I don't even have to try! 

Finally, don’t stress and don’t worry if you don’t fancy or can’t stretch to paid swimming lessons. They don’t need to be swimming by the time they go to school or anything! The important thing is you get them comfortable and confident in the water and they’re capable of doing this with just you. Try to enjoy it, it’s actually really special. Last weekend we took the plunge as a family and took our two swimming. It was our daughter’s first ever time and she loved it, until she had to get out and then the screaming commenced. I’d forgotten the hooded towels and the snacks.

Practice makes perfect right, so it can only get better!  


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