All the information you need to know about taking your 3mth - 4.5yr old to swimming lessons

NEW BABY - age 6 weeks to 12 months, new to swimming classes.
Babies begin in our new baby class and spend a term here learning about introducing their baby to the water. Adults learn different types of holds and how to move in the water with their baby and we also introduce word association and move onto submersion's. Progressive practices move babies from small static submersion's right up to submersion's with releases. Babies spend one term here.

ADVANCED BABY - age 4mths to 15 months and completed the new baby class. There are two stages to this level: Advanced baby 1 and Advanced Baby 2
Babies move onto this stage 2 part of the programme once they have completed a term in new baby. More advanced holds and positions and the introduction of games, songs and rhythme. More advanced submersions. We use sinking hoops and lots of toys to introduce new activities. Beginning 'dive' submersions and learning to 'turn' around under the water and 'hold on' to the wall. There is just too much to list here but babies have brilliant fun (and so do their grown ups!) Babies spend a term in Advanced Baby 1 and a term in Advanced Baby 2.

TODDLER - 1- 2 years
Babies move from advanced baby to toddler after 1/2 terms or enter into the programme for the first time if starting and are over 13 months of age. This level of class is split into Toddler 1, Toddler 2, Toddler 3 and Toddler 4 and is much more based on songs, games and activities to encourage early swimming and swimming skills. We use lots of toys, games, big floats, small floats, noodles, egg flips and so much more! Babies spend a term in each stage Toddler 1, 2, 3 then 4 here depending on their progression. Some toddlers will skip a stage and some may repeat a stage if needed.

ADVANCED TODDLER - 18mth - 3 years
Toddlers move to our advanced toddler stage after completing there toddler stage classes (progression determines how quickly a child moves through) this class uses advanced activities and exercises and focuses a lot on getting children to swim independently of their adult. At this stage it would be reasonable to expect a child to swim 3-5m to a wall with no aids and to be Jumping in with a noodle and swimming the 5m to the wall with the noodle. Push and glides are easy and retrieving sinkers from the pool floor is great fun! The stages within Advanced Toddler are Advanced Toddler 1, 2, 3 and 4. Some toddlers will skip a stage and some may repeat a stage if needed.

KIDS 2.5 years -3/4 years
Once a child is 2.5 they are moved into our kids lessons to prepare them for swimming on their own from 3-4 (depending on ability)

Sometimes we merge classes together if numbers are low but your child's teacher will know what level they area at and you will be given activities to develop your child.

We encourage you to float and swim with your baby (you do not have to be able to swim yourself) and to develop your own confidence in holding and moving your baby through the water.
We do include submersion in our lesson but our structured underwater swimming activities are designed to be fun, relaxed and are only introduced when you and your baby are ready. Swimming is an activity that your baby can participate in, even before he/she can walk or crawl. The water supports infant body weight and so your baby is able to freely move his/her legs and arms.
Up until 18 months your baby displays the diving reflex the epiglottis blocks the throat so babies can swim underwater with their mouths open. Our swimming classes are lots of fun! Mums, Dads, grandparents or childcarers are all welcome in the classes.
We suggest Mums wait until their 6 week post natal check up, but the current advice of the NHS and Swimming Teacher Association is that babies do not need to be immunised. The children must wear swim nappies that are secure around the thighs and tum.
The Science behind Submersion
 During our baby swimming classes we practice submersions with the babies. Here is a little of the science behind it. Babies are born with many relfexes (an involuntary muscle reaction to an external stimulation). These reflexes help the baby develop and learn voluntary muscle actions.
As a baby develops, the newborn reflexes slowly disappear as they are replaced by the baby's own voluntary actions. We can use some of these newborns reflexes to help develop learned actions in the water environment. There are 4 main reflexes that we use whilst submerging a baby.
Breath Holding Response This reflex works in conjunction with the Gag relfex and the Mammalian Dive reflex. When the baby's face in blown on or water splashes it, they will hold their breath. The breath holding response will usually have disappeared by the time the baby is approximately 4 months old. It is replaced by a learned response to hold their breath.
Gag Reflex If water gets into a baby's mouth the Gag reflex is stimulated. The baby's glottis and epiglottis goes into a spasm. This then creates a watertight seal over the windpipe. This seal prevents any of the water from entering the baby's lungs. This does not, however, close the oesophagus which leads to the stomach, so the baby may still swallow the water that is entering their mouth.
This reflex is active whilst the baby is feeding to stop them from choking as they continually swallow. Although they do not physically gag, the epiglotts forms the seal over the windpips, but because in babies it is slightly elongated it meets the soft palate when closing. As the baby grows the epiglottis shortens and this then means that when the epiglottis closes, it closes entry from both the nose and the mouth at the same time. There is no definate decision as to when this relfex disappears and turns into a learnt action, it may vary greatly from baby to baby.
Mammalian Dive Reflex When the baby's face comes into contact with the water the body automatically reacts to protect the major organs, especially the heart and the brain. The heart rate slows down, blood is redistributed to the major organs from the extremities starting with fingers and toes and then possibly the arms and legs, to conserve these organs. The Mammalian dive reflex will not usually disappear, however it is strongest up to 2 years of age.
Amphibian Reflex When a baby is in water or held horizontally above a surface, face downwards, they appear to start a swimming type of action. This is a bending of their torso along with rhythmic movements of the arms and legs. This movement can have the effect of propelling the baby through the water for a short distance, and looks as though they are actually swimming. However the baby is unable to lift their head from the water to breathe by themselves, hence the link to the Mammalian dive reflex and the breath holding response.
The Amphibian reflex will usually have disappeared by the time the baby is approximately 6 months old. Babies who are taken swimming proir to 6 months of age, can be submerged and the breath holding response, diving reflex along with the Gag reflex will ensure that they hold their breath whilst submerged. Their breath holding abilities need to be taken into account, as babies breathe at a more rapid rate than adults they should not be submerged for too long ( 3 seconds max) to start with, however, these can be gradually increased with practice as their breath holding ability increases.
We teach them a cue whilst practising these early submersions, so that this will ensure, once the diving reflex has disappeared at aprrox 6 months old, the baby will have learnt the breath holding cue. They will know what is about to happen and when given the cue will hold their own breath as a voluntary action. This should ensure an almost invisible transition between the reflex action and the learnt response to the cue given.
When submerging a baby under 6 months old, the adult holding them will also probably be aware of the Amphibian reflex. The baby will feel like they are kicking towards the surface, their whole body may give a little flick too, lift their head from the water to breathe by themselves, hence the link to the Mammalian dive reflex and the breath holding response.
The Amphibian relfex will usually have disappeared by the time the baby is approx 6 months old. When submerging a baby at any time we need to be positive and think of them as a little egg, get the baby's attention, give the cue and then with no hesitation take the baby under the water fully. This will ensure that the baby receives all the right signals and their reflexes have the chance to act. When they come up out of the water, we gently and rhythmatically sway them in the water from side to side, we praise them, tell them how well they have done in a positive manner.
We don't immediately cuddlle them, as this gives them a sign that they have been rescued from something bad, no matter how they naturally reacted to the submersion. If babies are submerged in the correct way then they can truly enjoy time in the water both above the surface and below, and soon you will find that most of them are more than happy to submerge themselves.
 Just remember that we must always supervise the babies and children whilst in water as it takes just a moments distraction for accidents to happen, so, as the responsible adult you need to remain alert and concentrate on you baby at all times, Never Never take anything for granted.