One of the main goals of swim lessons for babies is to help them become comfortable in the water. Singing and playing games adapted for swim class promotes water enjoyment and encourages positive attitudes toward swimming. Because babies learn through play and exploration, songs and games provide an excellent way to introduce basic swimming skills.
Music and Movement
Music sets the tone for fun while movement promotes gross motor development, explains Carolyn Tomlin in her 2007 "Early Childhood News" article, "Staff Newsletter: Music and Creative Movement Enhance Learning." Incorporating song and play into early childhood programs promotes an outlet for emotions and creates a positive learning environment, Tomlin says, adding that fun songs, chants and nursery rhymes with simple movements, such as the "Hokey Pokey," can be modified or created to accompany the lesson's activities. In baby swim classes, the "Hokey Pokey" song is often modified to promote splashing, paddling and kicking with cues such as "... and you splash your hands around" or "... and you kick your feet around."
Water Entry Safety
Water safety education, according to the ARC Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness, should be included in aquatic education programs for all ages, including babies. Some swim instructors begin class with parents in the water while facing and holding onto their babies who are seated on the side of the pool. They sing a fun song or nursery rhyme, such as "Humpty Dumpty," that involves the babies entering the water from the side, but only after permission is granted in the form of a "one-two-three" cue given after singing "... Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!" This type of activity sets the tone for a positive swim class experience while reinforcing the important water safety skill of waiting for permission to enter the water.
To condition babies to view swim class as a positive experience, instructors may start class with a song that has parents walking in a circle while bobbing up and down in the water with their little ones, such as "Ring-a-Round the Rosie" or "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush." Songs that involve movement and can be adapted to incorporate splashing and blowing bubbles include "If You're Happy and You Know It" or "Wheels on the Bus." Including these songs at the beginning of class can help babies get used to having water in their faces as they become accustomed to splashing and being splashed.
Songs and games can be used to promote swimming skills such as paddling, kicking and floating. Splashing the water with their hands is the first step babies take in learning the basic paddling arm movements, which very young children use when swimming. A favorite game that encourages this type of splashing and paddling is for the parent to toss an age-appropriate floating toy, such as a little duck or ball. Then parent and baby chase after the toy while the parent cues baby to "kick, kick, kick" and "paddle, paddle, paddle" or "splash the toy." To soothe babies and help them feel comfortable while practicing floating on their backs, instructors may encourage parents to sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "Rock-a-Bye Baby."