Should parents take infants swimming in winter?
During the colder months, some parents avoid taking their infants swimming. A recent survey by children and baby swimwear specialists Splash About found that over a quarter (28%) of parents only take their toddlers to the pool in summer.
Some parents worry that their young children might catch a cold if they go outside with wet hair. This is a myth! In fact, consistent swimming throughout the year actually helps young children build a stronger immune system so they can fight off viruses. Drying the infant’s hair before they go outdoors will protect them from feeling uncomfortably cold and associating swimming with that negative feeling.
Taking a break from swimming throughout winter can disrupt a young child’s progress, damage their confidence and even result in them developing a fear of water, known as the ‘water wobbles’. This can occur from the age of 18 months, even if the toddler had enjoyed swimming previously.
Bernadette Spofforth, managing director of Splash About, said: “Until swimming becomes second nature to the child, it’s vital they continue practising so they can develop their skills.
“A break is likely to disrupt their routine, slow down the process and lead to them forgetting everything they had previously learnt. This can be extremely frustrating for the child.”
How can the experience be improved?
Even though the pool’s temperature doesn’t change during winter, the air surrounding it is often much colder. In this situation, getting a toddler into the water without creating a scene can be difficult.
To ease the process by making the child more comfortable, parents can dress them in warm swimwear. They can also use changing mats to stop the infant’s feet getting cold, while also protecting them from wet and slippery floors.
“Wetsuits with fleece lining will cover the majority of the toddler’s body, and keep them warm while getting in the pool,” Bernadette said. “This can help them enjoy water for a longer period of time. A swim hat can also be an added benefit.
“Before they change into regular clothing, hooded ponchos are perfect for keeping them warm after getting out of the pool and into the changing rooms.”
It’s often beneficial to use the baby-friendly pools—which are usually heated—until the infant has warmed up and is ready to transition to the larger, deeper and usually colder pools.
Noël Janis-Norton, parenting author, coach and director of Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting, said: “If the infant is at all anxious about any aspect of swimming, the more frequently they are taken swimming, the sooner the fears will fade.
“The younger the child, the easier it is for their brain to forget what they have learned, so it’s best to continue taking a young child swimming throughout the year.”
A great form of exercise
It can be more challenging to keep toddlers active during winter, as they often prefer staying indoors to playing outside. The Splash About survey discovered that one in 10 parents take their babies swimming most of the year but avoid the pool in winter, while 13% only take their infants swimming on sunny or warm days.
However, swimming is a great way to keep a child’s energy levels up when the temperature drops, without making them face the gloomy weather outside.
While it can be difficult to maintain a consistent schedule of winter swimming lessons, it’s certainly worth it once the infant develops this vital life skill and becomes happy and confident in the water.