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Babies as young as a few weeks old will soon be able to take part in an award-winning swimming course in Hackney when classes open next month. Recently voted the UK’s Best National Baby & Toddler Development Activity, Water Babies enables babies to swim underwater as well as on the surface. It is designed to make the most of their natural affinity with water whilst teaching confidence and safety techniques.
Childhood best friends Hannah Yeomans and Lucy Sullivan, have been running Water Babies classes across North East London since 2008. They now currently teach more than 800 babies in this area. “The Water Babies course teaches you and your baby core skills” explains Hannah, “building on each, as the weeks progress. So, for instance, when your baby is still very young they’ll learn to follow the simple instruction to ‘hold on’ to the side of the pool.”
Learning to respond to simple instructions is fantastic for a baby’s mental development. Weekly exercise is great for them physically too; especially as healthy children are much more likely to grow into healthy adults. And in water they’re able to exercise every muscle – including some they’d never even find on land”.
Despite the emphasis on parents and babies having fun, the course does have a very serious side to it. Hannah said “Tragically, drowning is still the third highest cause of accidental death in the UK, she continues, “In most cases, it’s the shock of sudden submersion that causes children to panic. We believe that by introducing babies to water as early as possible, they’ll be less likely to experience fear if they did fall in.”
“With progressive training, babies can be taught life saving skills such as turning onto their backs or swimming to the nearest solid object following a sudden submersion, Lucy adds. “In the last two years, we’ve had eight of our tiny clients nationally save their own lives. It’s fantastic what vital skills children can learn, and it’s so important that they do. Three of these children were just 24-months when it happened.”
In addition to the more serious safety skills, another key focus of the half-hour sessions is enhancing parent/carer and baby bonding and generally having great fun together. “We try hard to create a really sociable, energetic atmosphere” explains Lucy, and often classes turn into a full morning social, where the after-swim cake and conversation are as eagerly anticipated as the lessons themselves”.
“With research showing that new mothers are less likely to suffer from post natal depression if they can gain support from their peers, that’s another reason why we’re very proud of what we do,” she reflects.
Water Babies classes will be starting at Kids Pool, Spring Lane, Big Hill, Clapton, Hackney E5 9HQ from 8th February. For more information please phone Hannah or Lucy on 020 8989 4821 or visit www.waterbabies.co.uk