A Parent & Tot swim class is about singing songs, chasing rubber duckies and splashing mommy or daddy, right? Or is it?
The truth is that while Parent & Tot swim classes can be a whole lot of fun, there is also a very important developmental side to all this baby dipping and double diapering. What might surprise you is that a great Parent & Tot class actually lays the foundations for your toddler to grow into a confident swimmer.
One of the main goals of these classes is to acclimatize your baby or toddler to being in the water. To learn more about how to hold your baby securely in the water to instill a sense of confidence, check out our post from a few weeks back on ‘3 Tips for Baby’s First Swim.’
In addition to your child adjusting to the new sensation of being in the water, here are three top secret wonderfully waterful things going on alongside the fun and games of a Parent & Tot swim class!
1: Building muscle memory.
Holding your child horizontally on their front or back and either manipulating their little legs to kick up and down or verbally cueing them to kick by themselves builds muscle memory. This muscle memory creates neural pathways that solidify the kicking movement without the baby or toddler consciously having to understand what is going on. In other words, your baby’s muscles are picking up and remembering how to kick every time you move those little legs for them! Having this movement ingrained in their brain and muscles really puts these toddlers at an advantage when it comes time to learn to swim independently.
You can also help create a connection between the movement of kicking and forward propulsion in your toddler’s mind by playing a simple game of chase that ducky (or floating fruit, fish or block). To play this game simply throw a toy slightly ahead of the child in the water, hold them in a horizontal position and encourage them to kick. When they do, move them closer to the toy. If they stop kicking, stop moving forward and act surprised: “Uh oh! We stopped!” When they resume kicking, move forward once again towards the toy.
2: Transition to a horizontal body position.
With the exception of sleeping, we do just about everything else in an upright or vertical position. Swimming is one of few activities that requires a horizontal body. A good Parent & Tot class will help make the transition from vertical to horizontal easier for your child.
First, in a horizontal position, your child will get used to having their face near the water. Second, as you support them, it also simulates the buoyancy of the water. Learning how to come into a horizontal body position is critical to learning how to swim because let’s face it, a horizontal body position is what differentiates a swimmer from a non-swimmer.
3: Laying the foundations for breath control.
When teaching older children how to swim independently nothing stunts progress faster than a nose full of water or a child’s fear of having water in their ears or eyes. In a good Parent & Tot class toddlers learn early on how to deal with water in their eyes, nose and mouth.
Through modeling parents show their child how to blink away water in their eyes, spit out water in their mouth and blow out water that enters their nose. While this may sound a little gross, these are important things to learn so that a child is not startled by a little bit of water in their eyes, nose or mouth. Being silly or exaggerated in demonstrating these clearing techniques can also make learning with mom or dad entertaining showing toddlers that putting their face or head under the water is not scary – it’s actually really fun!
By singing songs such as, If You’re Happy and You Know it, and performing the corresponding actions such as holding your breath or blowing bubbles you are also modeling advanced breath control.
Behind all the fun and games that go on, a great Parent & Tot class lays the groundwork for a safe and confident lifetime of swimming!
Check out openings for Parent & Tot classes at the Aqua Life Swim Academy here!