Families who swim together

August 24, 2022

Families who swim together

Swimming is one of those magical activities that connects and benefits every member of the family. Take it outdoors, and you add a whole new level of benefits for mind, body and soul, from appreciating nature and bonding to learning life skills and hard-wiring healthy habits.

As swimmers, we’re switched on to its benefits. But did you know that it has huge added benefits for your children? It improves fitness, concentration, academic scores, self-esteem, lowered stress, plus bonding and socialising. The full-body movement of swimming and improved oxygen transport to the body's cells has also been linked to positive neurological and cognitive outcomes.
And it’s such a leveller. That means that swimming is one activity that all your family, from baby to great-grandma, can do together. This shared pleasure of jumping the waves, splashing in the sea and swimming anywhere is incredibly bonding – it’s having fun together, the pleasure of giving your child a life-skill, skin-on-skin contact, and also building happy shared memories.

We spoke to Rowan, who’s taught swimming to children from eight days old to 16 years old, and D&B founder Rosie about swimming through childhood and the best swimwear for children and their carers.

Deakin and blue swimcrop bikini beach meadow

How young can babies start swimming?

Rowan: You can start swimming with your baby from birth. Lots of people think that you have to wait until they’ve been vaccinated, but that’s out-of-date advice from when polio was a live vaccination. Babies have just spent nine months in the womb so warm water is like a home-from-home, and it’s just so magical to see the bonding, relaxation and joy babies and their carers get from being in warm water.

What about swimming outdoors?

Rowan: Babies under six months shouldn’t go in salt water in case they drink it, but other than that it’s really down to temperature. As a guide, if your baby is under 12-weeks old or 12 pounds in weight, they shouldn’t go into water colder than 32 degrees centigrade.

So, be guided by your little one – if they don’t want to get in, don’t make them. They learn loads about buoyancy and gain confidence from playing anyway, so let them splash around in the shallows if that’s what they want to do. Watch out for blue lips – that’s a sure sign that they’re cold and the fun needs to stop.

What’s the best thing to wear in the water at this early stage?

Rowan: Babies need a double nappy system – an inner liner nappy and then a secure neoprene outer nappy that’s well fitted to stop poo from escaping. You can buy a range of baby and toddler wetsuits, which should be tight-fitting to keep in warmth. And if outdoors, a UV-resistant suit is really important.

Rosie: Taking my own baby to swim was a real reminder that for women, swimwear is often a compromise in one way or another. You need something that feels secure and supportive when your toddler’s wriggling around in your arms or as you dash to stop them getting into the pool without you. And if you’re breastfeeding, I recommend picking a swimsuit style where you can easily pull the straps down – such as our X-Back, or Essential Swimsuit, or a bikini where you can lift the bottom up – such as our Swimcrop or Swimbra.

Deakin and Blue Swimcrop bikini beach meadow

What if my child’s scared of the water?

Rowan: When some babies and toddlers reach that age where separation anxiety becomes a thing, they can get really fearful around water, and that can go on into childhood. The best way to change that pattern is through positive association – kind of like exposure therapy, but the experience has to be positive otherwise it just reinforces the fearfulness.

Playing in water is really important for learning in small children. It might feel like your child’s not progressing by sitting in the shallows and splashing, but they are, and, most importantly, if you’re not stressed and you have fun with them it makes a huge difference. Kids read everything from their parents’ reactions. So, change up the location of your swims, take off all the pressure, praise every bit of progress and have fun together.

What if I don’t feel confident enough to take my child swimming?

Rosie: When I set the business up, one of the stats that really drove me was around women who didn't feel confident enough to take their children to learn to swim because of body image related issues associated with swimwear. Feeling confident in yourself is such a huge part of passing on the gift of water confidence to your children, and that’s one of the main concepts that underpins Deakin & Blue – our swimsuits should make you feel great.

Rowan: If you’re scared of water, your best bet is to find a coach who will support you to face that fear. Becoming a stronger swimmer, or just having positive experiences in water can be amazingly helpful.

My children have swimming lessons – when can they swim outdoors?

Rowan: The question is more about where than when. My parents took me into the sea from the age of 11 months – just splashing around in the shallows on a calm day. Finding spots where access is easy and there aren’t strong currents or tides is your best bet. You need to monitor your children in the water at all times, and if you can touch the bottom and don’t have to work hard yourself, it’s much easier to support your fledgling open water swimmer.

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How do I keep my children safe outdoors?

Rosie: I have a toddler and his age group can be pretty reckless in the water. For me, it’s about staying with him at all times in and around the water, dressing him in UV protective clothes and a hat, and getting him out and warmed up as soon as I think that he’s getting chilly.

Rowan: My children are older – 10, 14 and 16. Even though they’re all strong swimmers, I keep tabs on them and make sure my 10-year-old is always within a couple of metres of me. If my older two are swimming further, I give them a tow float. Ultimately, though, water safety education has been key and they’ve all done RNLI and Swim England Water Safety and Lifesaving sessions. My 16-year-old will now go to the beach with mates, and while I don’t completely trust his teenage judgement, I am confident that he knows how to be safe in open water.

When can my children take part in swim events?

Rowan: Some open water swim events are really geared up for families starting from aged 7 or 8. Once your child has reached a decent level of swimming, open water events are the safest, most fun way you can introduce them to swimming distances outdoors. I love the Mini Swoosh at the Bantham Swoosh, the Henley Swim Festival and the Great North Swim.

Deakin and Blue Signature Swimsuit Plum