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Old 10-04-2010, 00:24   #16
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First and foremost, the adult in the water with the child (preferably the mother if the child is an infant - she has already established the necessary bond with the infant) should be a swimmer, comfortable and confidant in the water.
As a senior physician and someone more aquatic than terrestrial, I disagree with age restrictions suggested by medical authorities. For the child (infant?), the younger the better. We are all born with a diving reflex which keeps us from inhaling when our face is immersed. This reflex is usually estinguished during the first year of life.
I suggest starting within a few days after birth, making bathing in the tub something pleasureable for the child and parent. An infant of even a few days of age can be taken into a pool for play, and within the first few months, can be dunked. This is best done by gently bobbing the infant, gently blowing into the infant's face, and then very briefly dunking the infant. It should be a game, and should be interrupted any time the infant appears uncomfortable. Most infants will initially show surprise rather than discomfort, and then rapidly become comfortable with their face immersed.
Then a progression to rising to the surface and floating can be initiated, taking advantage of the infant's net bouancy and reflexive efforts to stroke to the surface. Somewhere around 6 months, "drown proofing" can be started, by releasing the child very close to the edge of the pool and letting natural instincts lead "him" to the edge of the pool deck. Then successively release "him" a bit further away from the edge, and natural stroke development is initiated.
Between 3 and 5 years, formal stroke instruction can be initiated, progressing from "dog paddling" to a beginning freestyle stroke.
My caveats echo that of most other posters.
There must be a capable adult swimmer immediately beside any child who has not mastered a freestyle stroke. A life jacket must be worn at all times when a child is playing on the dock or onboard the boat, and even then an adult swimmer must be in constant attendance. Education, based in information rather than fear, in water safety is essential.
Swim aids like arm floats or flotation clothes only delay learning to swim and should be avoided. Life jackets are safety devices for use when at the child is at risk, but do not help during efforts to introduce the child to swimming.
Our children were in the pool at a few days of age, were pool safe by 6 months, and could swim across the pool by the time they started walking. Now they are like my wife and me, more aquatic than terrestrial.

'T was all so pretty a sail it seemed, As if it could not be, And some folks thought 't was a dream they 'd dreamed, Of sailing that beautiful sea---
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Old 10-04-2010, 07:02   #17
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No matter what your age is, if you spend time on boats you should know "Drown Proofing". You can learn this technique even if you can't swim, and it can save your life.

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Old 12-05-2010, 20:52   #18
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Children have been "swimming" for 9 months before they emerged into the outer world and it is a natural reflex for them to hold their breathe and move through water. However, there is one major problem and that is they do not float. This is due to insufficient body fat. Muscle and bones sink - fat floats. I have a 28 yr old step-son who is vegan and cannot float due to lack of body fat. He is all muscle.
- - So the age at which a baby/toddler can float without having to constantly swim is a variable. I had an aunt (Olympic 1940 champion) who taught infants to children how to swim and have fun in water. It is vital that they be given artificial assistance to allow them to float if they lack enough body fat. There are now in the boat stores chest style PFD's in smaller and smaller sizes. And don't forget there are PFD's for cats and dogs that can be used to assist really small children with low body fat.
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Old 13-05-2010, 11:07   #19
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Originally Posted by dwightsusan
An infant of even a few days of age can be taken into a pool for play, and within the first few months, can be dunked.
As Gord pointed out, there may be immune system issues. I don't know. What I do know is that you certainly CAN start teaching a child to swim within a few days of birth.

When I was younger, and teaching swimming lessons myself, my boss and his wife had a child. Less than a week after the birth they brought the baby to the pool and started playing in the water. By the time that kid was three months old he was diving underwater and swimming around better than half of the 10-year-olds I was teaching.

He did, as others have mentioned, get tired quickly. A parent ALWAYS had to be close by, in the water. But given that, he would dive under, swim out 5-10 feet, come up for a breath, swim back, and then hang onto mom or dad for a few moments to rest before repeating. And I can tell you that he LOVED IT!!! When he came back to rest he was usually giggling, smiling, and sometimes squealing so loud that everyone in the pool area had to look and laugh.

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