Wednesday, February 7, 2007
DALLAS -- Melissa Beck has been terrified of water most of her life.
But her son, 10-month-old Trenton, seems comfortable enough as he floats around the therapy pool at the Dallas Aquatic Center. He's nestled in his mother's arms and is chewing on a plastic ring.
It's the last day of a four week infant swim class. Beck signed up to tackle her phobia - for Trenton's sake.
"I just didn't want him to have that fear, and it was important that I be OK with it ... with him swimming," Beck said.
Water is not man's natural habitat, but even babies have swimming instincts. If a normal, healthy infant falls into water it will usually hold its breath, surface and paddle to the nearest person. Infants aren't strong, so they need help in staying buoyant and learning to relax. But the instinct is there.
Baby swim classes have been offered for decades as a way for child and parent to bond, and to acclimate young children to water.
"It gets them used to the water and as they get older it's then easier to teach them to swim because they're not afraid to get their faces wet," said Heidi Dum, the infant swim teacher at Dallas's Aquatic Center.
For 12 years, Dum has been teaching children of all ages to swim. She said early childhood swim classes can also help parents to feel safer about their kids being in the water.
If a parent is apprehensive and tense about a child swimming, then the child is going to be scared as well.
In Dum's class parents teach their infants to get their faces wet and dive under the water for short periods while parents learn holding positions and water safety.
There are all kinds of bath toys for the babies to help them feel safe and keep them entertained.
Some of the infants tense when they hit the water. Others, usually the older ones, seem like veterans.
Mark Swartzfager and 16-month-old Emma work on crawling out of the pool and jumping back in. Emma seems more interested in chewing on the water weight she found near by. Mark takes it away from her, hands her a Barbie ball and floats her back out into the pool.
Before he does, he says he thinks swimming is one of the most important things to teach a child. He says he loves to swim and wants Emma to love it too.
The parent and tot swim class is offered three days a week (parents pick any two mornings from Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) at the aquatic center. New sessions are starting this week.
Sessions run four weeks, totaling eight 40-minute classes. The class is for children 6 months to 36 months, and a parent must accompany a child into the water.
Each session costs $35 for in-city residents and for $45 out-of-city residents.
For more information: www.ci.dallas.or.us, click on the Aquatic Center link or call 503-623-9715.