I find it extraordinarily hard to find decent toddler girls swimwear. By decent I really mean swimwear that is actually most suited to, you know… swimming. I cannot fathom why everywhere you look there are bikini tops, frills or spaghetti strap halter-necks. I’m assuming some people must think this is cute? However, it strikes me that it certainly isn’t what I would look for in swimwear for me and I can’t imagine it’s comfortable for a child to swim in either.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I own a few bikinis but really for sunbathing. At no point, have I ever thought, ‘I know what will make swimming easier – more frills on my swimsuit!’ Why is this even a design feature?
I cannot recall ever owning a swim suit like this as a child either – I remember having wide straps (that didn’t get twisted) and really bright patterns. I don’t know if anyone could direct me to the source of these but I’d really like one in age 3-4!
I think that learning to swim is difficult enough for kids so in my book swimwear has to be completely comfortable and practical. We’ve taken Katie swimming since she was about three months-old and to parent and child lessons since she was 11 months. She is now very confident in the water and able to swim in an interesting fashion, but still provides ample opportunity for me to keep fit as well.
Today I want to talk about what you can do at each stage in terms of fitness for you, and a little about what’s in my swim bag at each level for each of the kids – age 4 months, 3 years and 10 years of age.
Fitness wise, baby-level swimming was a great way to slowly get back into being active. It helped that Katie has always loved the water, so it has always been a joy to swim with her. When she was very tiny, there was nothing more that she liked than being held close and swished side to side in the water. This of course gave her a little massage, but also is a nice way to stretch my sides and back a little. Basically, you switch your core on and then turn as much as is comfortable from one side to the other moving baby through the water. You don’t have to do this at any great speed so is just a nice gentle way to stretch.
As Katie got bigger, we could also be a bit more boisterous with her in the water – she loved being lifted up out of the water (repeatedly) – so good for upper body, and it is hardly sedentary. She also started to be a bit more keen on wanting to kick and move through the water, which obviously meant that we needed to move with her.
Key things to note for baby at this stage are just keeping warm and, gross. but key – keeping any nappy contents OUT of the water.
To meet this aim we’ve always used the Splash About two part system – this consists of a reusable nappy wrap, lined with a disposable paper liner (thick enough that it doesn’t disintegrate in the water) and then a neoprene cover that has tight cuffs round the waist and legs. After two years of using this system every week, we’ve never had cause to change it (touch wood!).
Whilst Edinburgh is very well served when it comes to council pools – the majority are on the Baltic side. The notable exception being Haddington – which technically isn’t Edinburgh! Particularly when Katie was small, she became cold very quickly in water so to maximise the amount of time we could spend in the water, we used the Splash About wrap. This is the same system we’re using with Thomas and seems to be effective (I also love the pattern!).
Whilst you can buy wetsuits that cover the arms and legs too – given that core temperature is most important, it makes sense to me that the wrap is sufficient for doing this and keep the legs and arms free for lots of splashing! Obviously, if your child suffers from eczema or has a reaction to chlorine then suits with more coverage can become more important.
This is probably my favourite stage of swimming. Katie can’t swim a great distance independently but is very proficient swimming with a pool noodle or a swim fin. Her confidence level is astronomical and I have to be super vigilant as a consequence!
On a fitness front, after an hour of swimming with her, I always feel like I’ve run a marathon. She still loves being lifted in and out of the water, but additionally, really enjoys being thrown – which definitely requires upper body strength!
Her absolute favourite though is piggy back rides whilst I swim round the pool. I’ve found that this is only really possible doing breast-stroke; it’s necessary to keep your head above water and you need to increase the speed of the stroke to keep afloat – in short, a great cardio workout.
Katie is much better at swimming under water than she is above it and our latest addition to her swim kit has been diving hoops – these are much easier to grab ahold of than the sticks we use with Ben and also sink much more slowly – so can be dropped and caught before they hit the bottom.
In some ways swimming with Ben isn’t really that different from swimming alone now. Despite not swimming all that frequently, he really is pretty good. He’s been keen to work on speed and getting more efficient with his front-crawl, so much of the time is taken with swimming alongside him checking out what he’s doing or having mini races up and down the pool.
He really wants to be able to swim in the lanes but I’ve said he has to learn to swim straight and faster before I let him (unless it’s completely empty!).
When I’m at the pool by myself, I find it really annoying when parents allow kids into the lanes. Obviously, some kids are amazing swimmers (I’m thinking club-level) but when they’re still at that splashing about, wonky swimming stage – I reckon keep out. Maybe, I’m being over the top but if I’m swimming in a lane I want to go at a decent speed and not have to deal with someone swimming the wrong direction (or bumping into me!).
The other thing I do a lot with Ben is diving or swimming under water – he likes to be timed to see how quickly he can pick up dive sticks. I can either join in with this or use the opportunity to do some exercises at the side of the pool.
A particular favourite is keeping my back flat against the side of the pool, slowly doing leg raises (single or both) so work the core a little- even when I’m swimming with Katie and Ben, this is possible if Katie is chilling out on her pool noodle as I can still stay close to her!
I have yet to think about taking Katie and Thomas together (is this even possible?) – so if anyone has any experience of taking a toddler and a baby swimming, please let me know!