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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Little Kickers

Above: Sylas enjoying the water at 6 mths
Below: Sylas reaching for toys at 10 mths

Sylas has been trying to crawl for many months now. The frustration is obvious...but once he is in the water, all the frustration is washed away. He sees a toy across the pool, and his legs ("little kickers" as we call them) move into action and off he goes to get his toy.

Prior to Sylas starting lessons at seven months, I had spent many hours reading about infant swimming on...of course, the Internet! I fortunately found a wonderful instructor in the area (, and although she did not have experience with special needs children, I had a feeling that she would be a perfect match for Sylas, and it turns out that she is. Both of my older children had participated in water baby classes (water exploration), but I never really thought an infant could be taught to swim. I read that in Australia and some of the European countries, swim classes for infants is not uncommon. However, I was worried that Sylas may aspirate pool water or get ear infections. This is what I have learned:

  • Fear of water is acquired as children grow older. Babies less than one year acclimate to water easier than older children. Sylas has always seemed relaxed in the warm water (90-92 degrees), he evens gets excited now when he sees water and starts to kick.

  • Swimming improves muscle development, cardiovascular systems, coordination, and fine motor skills. Sylas is less restricted by gravity in the water, so he is able to move easily despite his low tone. Sylas initially kicked his legs simultaneously, but now he is able to kick each leg independent of the other leg, this is a good example of improved coordination.

  • Teaching young children to swim could save their lives. No need to comment more on that!

  • Learning to swim builds confidence and independence. It is a great way to socially interact with Sylas and expose him to an activity that will provide social situations in the future.

  • Warm water and exercise helps improve appetite and sleep. Longer naps? Yes, indeed..Sylas naps much longer on swim days. :)

  • Improved cognitive development. We use a lot of repetition with songs and activities, Sylas knows what to expect next. We label each action, such as "Sylas reach" or "Sylas kick, kick, kick".

To teach Sylas how to hold his breath, we gradually (over weeks) adjusted Sylas to water by dripping it over his head onto his forehead. We would get Sylas' attention and say the same verbal cue each time, "Sylas, ready..go" and soon he was closing his eyes and mouth while we gently poured a small stream of water down his forehead onto his face. He caught on quickly. The next step was using the cue prior to doing a splashy jump, and finally he was ready for a brief submersion. After we cue him, he is never submerged unless we observe that he has closed his eyes and mouth.

In my experience with Sylas, I have not noticed more ear infections or aspiration. We watch his mouth closely to prevent him from ingesting pool water (he likes to lick it, yum), and we refrain from swimming if he shows signs of sickness.

The following video is from January. He is now able to submerge for two seconds, stay relaxed in a back float while I support his neck, and kick across the pool to reach a toy while we support his trunk. The best part is when he smiles and laughs...and he has been doing a lot of that lately!


  1. So cute, you're really making want to put my baby boy in swimmng lessons!

  2. That is awesome!! Ella DOES NOT like the water on her face. It is a struggle just to wash her hair in the bathtub. She likes the water but just not on her face. I guess I will wish I had tried harder when she was under 1, huh?? Cute pics!! He is getting so big!!

  3. That is so darn cute!!! I'm thinking of doing some classes with Bennett this summer. Good job Sylas!!!

  4. That is so cool! We just took Max swimming last week for the first time since last summer, and he finally liked it!

  5. I wish all our little ones could be swim buddies about long distance swim buddies?

  6. YEAH Sylas! This is so exciting! My son, Jack is 6 months old next week and we are looking to start him on swim lessons. Thanks for the info and good luck! You're a terrific mommy!

  7. Brennan just started pool therapy last week and LOVED it! it's so great on so many levels and also lots of fun!


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