Episode 10 Live Q&A: Kim Purnell (Professional Swim Instructor)

Kim Purnell, Professional Swim instructor, shares her tips on how to encourage your baby to swim from a young age and has some important safety tips we should remember around water. She is has provided answers to Huggies Baby Club members below.

We go to swimming lessons but I’m worried about the chlorine being bad for my baby’s skin. What can I do to make sure that she doesn’t get affected by it?

You shouldn’t be too concerned about the chlorine, as most leading swim schools monitor their pool chemistry consistently during the day. A tip – apply a little sorboline cream before and after swimming.

Hi Kim, My baby will only be 3 months at Christmas time and we have our own pool. Is there any reason why the baby will not be OK to go swimming with us if the weather is hot?

Three months is a great age to introduce your baby to swimming. However remember that you need to make the swimming experience pleasurable for your baby, so avoid swimming if the pool water is too cold, or better still, go to a swimming centre and enroll in a baby learn to swim class, where the pool water is pleasantly warm.

Why does my local swimming pool insist that babies wear Little Swimmers, we’ve never had an ‘accident’ in the water yet and I was prevented from going in the pool one day because I forgot to bring one along. Most annoying. Is it really that important???

It is important for the health and safety of the other swimmers that any little accidents can be contained. Even though your child is toilet trained, sometimes the excitement or even the warm water can induce an accident! Therefore it is best if the pools enforce a policy of wearing Little Swimmers for all babies/ toddlers.

Hi Kim, is it best to continue long term when you start your swimming lessons? My son is 13 months old and we are in our second term – I didnt want to stop and wait for summer again as I thought we might undo the good work of the first term. Is it Ok to only do swimming lessons for a few months a year?

At this age it is important to continue lessons throughout the year. That way, by summer your son will be continuing to develop his skills. If you stop lessons during the colder months, some kids develop fears and anxieties about returning to the pool.

Tip – Especially for younger swimmers, when leaving the pool, pop a beanie on your son’s head, as you lose significant heat from your body through your head.

Hi Kim, I was very sad to hear your story of losing your nephew. I hope you have great success with your campaign to teach as many kids, and their parents, the importance of water safety and swimming. I have all my kids (3) in swimming lessons at the moment. I guess my question would be how can we get families to go to swimming lessons when they cost such a lot. I pay over $50 a week in fees. I’d love to know if there is a cheaper way.

Thank you for your kind thoughts.

I suggest you ask your swim centre if they offer a sibling discount for the second and third swimmers in your family. Otherwise ‘shop around’ and call other swim centres in your area as I know some centres do offer this discount.

I hope that you can find some relief in the fees as it is so important for your children’s safety and enjoyment to swim.

Hi Kim, I have just noticed on the show that you had the babies jumping into the pool without floaties on, where my children go they wear floaties and the band around their bodies. My other baby is starting swimming lessons soon when he turns 6 months would you recommend that we put him in the pool without floaties on? Thanks Kylie

Where I teach swimming we use no floatation devices as we are trying to develop the skill of independent swimming. At home, you can use floaties or a bubble at family BBQ’s etc, however don’t rely on them as a baby sitter – constant supervision is imperative at all times for water safety. When swimming in your home pool with just the family, I suggest not using flotation devices as this will help develop your child’s feel for the water.

When attending swimming lessons, does the one parent have to attend every session, or can they alternate for lessons? My husband is a shift worker, and I am planning on going back to work when he is on his days off. I am wondering if he can take our son if I am at work, or is it better if the one parent sticks with the lessons?

It is quite OK for parents to alternate lessons. That way both of you can experience the time with your baby’s lessons. Mum and dad should talk about the lessons to inform each other of the child’s progress and skills.

Hello. I have a 4 month old daughter who I want to take to swimming lessons when she is 6 months old. What should I look for in a facility/instructor to make sure my daughter is taught properly? Sam

Why wait until she is 6 months old when we take babies from 3 months. She is at a great age now to start. Have a look at www.carlile.com.au or www.austswim.com.au

You are looking for a well established organization, with a warm friendly teaching environment, and a well maintained pool and facilities.

Hi Kim, My baby Christopher was two months premature, and although I want to get him to lessons as soon as possible, I am a little fearful due to his small size, and worries about lungs / breathing with water. Would it be best to wait until he is 8 months old rather than six months so that he is about the same size as the rest of the children initially? Thanks, Rebecca

You might like to ask your doctor or at the baby clinic first, but as long as you are shown the correct way to submerge your baby by an experienced teacher, your baby should not be taking water into his lungs. We teach babies from 3 months old at our facility.

Have a look at www.carlile.com.au or www.austswim.com.au

My four year old girl doesn’t have a fear of the water but a fear of the bigger pool. she doesn’t have a problem going into the small pool (ie wadding pool) or the council kids pool. She did have swimming lessons before she had turned three but started to get upset. We were told to stop taking her. She likes going to the beach and swimming there. She wants to learn to swim as she has told us that. She can blow bubbles, kick her legs and move her arms in the small pool. We thought that maybe cause her friend from dance goes to swimming lessons that she might see that it is okay. Can you please give us some advice on this please. As I don’t want to force my child into the bigger pool if she doesn’t feel confident in it.

You need to find a facility which has a policy of not forcing your child into the water. We need to make her first lesson fun and enjoyable by, if necessary, not even putting your child in the water for the first lesson. They can just play and become familiar with the pool and other children at first and see others having a pleasant experience.
Privately run dedicated swim schools have multiple pools eg 25m pool and a 16m teaching pool, which is dedicated to teach from babies through to 7 year olds. The water is warm and makes for a much more pleasant learning environment.

I hope you find the right facility for your daughter, and don’t give up on her swimming lessons. I have seen children just like her who have been so afraid and they turn into fantastic confident swimmers. Don’t be disheartened, keep trying.

Have a look at www.carlile.com.au or www.austswim.com.au

Hi Kim, I have a 4 month old baby girl who loves to shower which is great with our water restrictions, she also LOVES a bath and is always putting her head back into the water on her own with just her face up, we have to take a firm hold as she wants to go back in further most times with a big grin on her face. In the shower I run her throw/ under the stream saying 1,2,3 then holding my breath as she does. Is this the correct thing to do? Is there anything else that I can do and when can I start swimming lessons. I am very very nervous about taking her under water in a pool too. How do they know to not suck in??? Ooohh scary stuff! Still I will be taking her to a swim class once I find a really good one in my area! Thanks so so much for the time! It was great to see you on the show as this is one topic I really do have a lot of questions about. Cheers! Bree and Oceana

Hi Bree, I understand your concerns but please don’t be anxious about submerging her. Once you find your swim centre, you will be guided by an experienced teacher how to safely do this. They will show you the correct verbal cues and baby holds to use. You will find it a fascinating and pleasant experience for you and your baby.

Hi Kim, My baby is just under 9 months of age. I wanted to start her in swimming lessons however, feel that it is bad timing with winter starting (i.e. increase chances of colds/ear infections). What is your opinion on this? Is it best to wait until she is around 12 months when the weather is warmer or start ASAP? Thanks, Daniela

There is no evidence that I know of that baby’s/ toddlers will suffer from an increase in colds and ear infections due to swimming in winter. Our pools are warm and well maintained. There is never a right or wrong time to start lessons, just when you are comfortable to start.

Tip – Especially for younger swimmers, when leaving the pool, pop a beanie on your baby’ head, as you lose significant heat from your body through your head.

Hi Kim, I am one of those parents who goes to swimming with a screaming kid. We went for one term and are hesitant to go back for the lessons as it doesn’t really feel to us that it’s something our son enjoys. Our friends say that their son did the same thing and eventually got used to it but it took quite a while, they think we should continue with the lessons. Do you have any tips for getting our son to enjoy the lessons more (he hates the humpty dumpty part, and being dunked)? Do you think we should carry on with the lessons regardless of his enjoyment? Thanks Jessica

Hi Jessica, You should persevere with the lessons, but explain your concerns to the teacher or the supervisor at the swim centre. The Humpty Dumpty part needs to be made enjoyable for him. It is not necessary that it always ends in a submersion, but go through the actions keeping his head above the water a few times, gaining his confidence. Then slowly introduce a submersion. Make a big fuss then ‘good job, well done’ all smiles and happy face. Keep trying!

hi, i’m a new mum for my 8months old boy, and am hearing impaired and my son is hearing and i don’t want to miss out what the instructor is saying to my son as i want to teach him too myself on my own time too. how do i get the instructor to tell me all the words they taught him while in swimming?

You will need to talk to your swimming instructor or their supervisor about how much specific help they can give you at that centre. At our centre in this situation, we have the group lesson for all, but our teacher will then give some one-on-one time to explain to our hearing impaired mum. They seem to be enjoying and progressing well in the class.

For more information see Episode 10 Entertaining kids or Parenting .