Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are all babies water babies?

"How to teach your baby to swim" was the most informative Doman book and actually made me want to swim more with B! Swimming helps to stimulate brain growth and development at a critical time in early childhood, especially when babies' physical mobility is still limited.  Virtually all muscles are used when swimming, providing for an excellent aerobic workout!  Children who are competent and confident swimmers are also more likely to be participants, not just spectators in life.  As the baby swims more, his heart and lungs will develop, breath will be held longer, muscles and chest will grow, overall mobility, immune system, language and manual competence will improve.  Overall success in physical excellence = ideal environment + maximum opportunity.  Some tips below.

For newborns (birth to 6 months):
Babies have been "swimming" in utero since birth. Once born, swimming provides an opportunity to move in an environment where he will be buoyant and baby fat advantageous.  Focus on enabling the baby to love being in water and to learn breath holding under water, be consistent week to week and swim daily where possible.  Activities include: Balancing and floating with baby's chin on parent's shoulder, floating on back, blowing bubbles, bobbing up and down, passing under a gentle shower (up to 10x nonstop, followed by going underwater), gentle jumping (with support of parent's hands) into the bath, grasping the side of the tub or parent's thumbs.  Before swimming:  ensure newborn is fed and rested, hugs, kisses, cuddling throughout and at end!

For 6-12 months:
Gradually transition to a pool or open water, preferably heated.  Note: Children can tolerate the cooler temps of an outdoor pool only at around 18-24 months.   Extend the length of time baby goes underwater, holds his breath and keep up the newborn activities. Activities: Floating on the back, swimming from one to another parent, climbing out, blowing bubbles, bobbing up and down to breathe/submerge (say, "1-2-3-under"). At 1 year, he may even be able to sit by the side of the pool, jump in, swim a few feet and resurface to breathe -- with limited assistance!  Swim as often as possible, ideally 3-5x a week

For 1-2 years:
Apply the same principles -- cuddling, kissing and joyousness, do each activity frequently, briefly and move on, keep the structure of each swim time/lesson the same.  Focus is on independent activities, esp. climbing out of the pool, swimming the width of a pool (underwater/resurface to breathe/underwater), safely diving into the pool.  If there is exposure to the beachfront (lake/gentle sloping ocean), the child can eventually walk into the water with you, swim out a short distance, turn around, swim back and walk out of the water onto the beach!  Activities: Bobbing up and down, holding the side of the pool, swimming to the steps and from the steps to parent, and then, continuing to swim, floating on the back, jumping and diving from a sitting, then kneeling, then standing position to a parent, pushing off (from a ladder) and swimming to a parent, climbing out of the pool using steps and a ladder with a little boost as needed from parent.  Goal:  Child can happily and easily jump into the pool, swim across at least 6 years/meters, and climb out independently

For 2-4 years:
Children in this age group are extremely active physically, in constant motion, and MUST be well fed before swimming.  Time to introduce goggles. Activities: Streamlining, flutter kicking, breathing and pulling with arms, flutter kicking as the child holds one side of the pool or as you hold the child on the side of your body, diving and streamlining to you from the side of the pool, dive from a standing position and streamlining, dive in the water to the bottom to retrieve an object.  Goal: To swim the length of the pool with a crawl stroke taught via 3 proposed methods:

  • A: Breathing and head turning while holding side of pool, rotate chin towards the shoulder and inhale, straighten the head as it enters the water and exhale 
  • B: Same as A but with parent holding child in the middle of pool
  • C: Using arms for the crawl.  Hold child on parent's side and progress to independent swimming 
For 4-6 years:
Focus on helping the child swim easier, more secure/safer and faster, improving the quality of streamlining, endurance, the crawl stroke (outside the pool) and diving.  Goals: 4 years - 100 meters crawl, 5 years - 200 meters crawl, 6 years - 400 meters crawl. Once your child loves to swim and is doing well with the crawl, move on to other strokes/flip turns and continue to teach in a loving way!  Activities:  Streamlining with independent breathing, further nonstop crawl strokes (inhale left and then right), improve diving in the sitting, kneeling and standing position.  Bench activities (face down): Rotate chin to shoulder and inhale, straighten head and exhale, flutter kicking (knees over the end of the bench and movement from hips, not knees), rotate and pull with both arms (moving over and below the sides of the bench), combine pulling with arms + flutter kicking + breathing

Make it fun!  Suggested water play (2 years up):
Retrieve toys such as rings/brightly coloured objects, swim between legs of one parent then both, riding on your back like a dolphin, racing/chasing/"tag", parents throws kid into "deep" water while standing, push off the bottom and rocket to the surface, see how far you can swim underwater, swim in deep water, play soccer/water polo/basketball with floating net, go underwater and somersault forwards/backwards, stand on your hands on the bottom of the pool, "Marco Polo" (kid holds themselves in a tuck position - knees held tightly against chess, parent throws them into the air, they splash in water and swim back)....

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kindermusik: Dream Pillow

I've noticed how much B seems to love music and rhythm, and signed him up for Kindermusik Village classes at around 10 months. Over the weeks, I've been pleasantly surprised by how wholistic (comprehensive?) his classes are.  One would think that baby music class mainly involves moms singing a bunch of nursery and action songs, hoping that at least half of the little bubs pay attention while the other half don't get too cranky!  But in reality, there's so much more that goes on.  Here's what we learned from his first "Dream Pillow" term:

Babies are great listeners but they get distracted as they grow through improved visual acuity and mobility. Activities ("opposites" and body action songs) and instruments that introduce rhythm create opportunities for anticipation and sequencing.  It also ensures that the vestibular system which contribues to movement and balance gets adequate stimulation early on.  In addition, the longer babies are exposed to appropriate music and experiences, the better their audiation, i.e. the ability to sing silently/hear music inside our heads which is critical for musical memory and performance.

Babies learn best when emotionally involved in an activity because the incoming sensory stimulation is first processed through the non-rational non-conscious limbic system (the seat of emotion) -- and only THEN, goes to the neocortex, the rational brain. Simply put: The less emotional the content/experience, the less memorable!  That explains why to this day, he recognises and responds to the "I Love You" from Skinnamarink, rhythm and audiation from Sarasponda, various instrumental action cues from Tants, Tants, Yidelekh, random joyful dancing to Dance, Little Baby, slowing down to All Through The Night and pausing to rest with Softly, Softly.

Music is as much silence as it is sound and elements of both help develop a life skill of focused attention.  On the flip side, babies need plenty of rest too (and not just sleep!). Balance structured stimulation and engagement in age-appropriate activities with wakeful leisure time, unstructured moments where you just don't DO anything but rather, BE restored together.  This down time helps your child's brain process the learning that occurs. If quiet time is elusive, try to engage your baby with soft conversation, a gentle touch, light movements (standing/rocking/walking slowly). Relaxation is actually a learned behaviour!  Watch your baby for cues and pace yourselves during the day, alternate between boisterous and quieter activities, hold baby close and breathe deep, massage!

Some term book recommendations from Ms. Shauna at Kindermusik with Love:
  1. Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All In Your Head. Carla Hannaford
  3. Goodnight Moon. Margaret Wise Brown