Baby swimming classes with no armbands

Carlotta Cerri

I have to admit it, lately I can’t think of anything else than fresh water, cold showers and floating in the pool (last Friday temperatures reached 37 degrees here in Marbella), so I’m not even going to try and convince my neurones to write a thoughtful post about how to involve family and friends in our educational method (which will be coming up soon, I promise) and instead, I’ll tell you about one of the activities Oliver and I enjoy and look forward to the most: our swimming classes. Yes, water indeed, I can’t help it! 💦

But the main reason why I’d like to share this with you is because swimming classes have been a big part of our life for a very long time now—over a year now, since Oliver was 5 months old—and they have really shaped Oliver’s relationship with water in the best way possible. And as I myself adore water, this is one of my favourite weekly activities to do with him.

I won’t go into details of what the best swimming classes for children are and why—I might ask lovely Helene, Oliver’s swimming teacher, to do that for me one day—but I now know that the kind of teacher and approach we chose really made a difference in the Oliver’s relationship with water and (future) swimming skills.

As you can imagine, we didn’t choose traditional lessons and methods: we went for classes that avoid all sort of armbands, doughnuts and wearable floaters. These lessons are very structured and carefully designed, made especially for babies (starting at 4 months) and toddlers (up to 3 years old) by highly qualified instructors.

Parents, as always, are the ones who learn the most: not just swimming techniques to assist their babies in the water, but also confidence in the process and in themselves—which is very important, especially for those parents who don’t feel comfortable in the water and would most likely pass their nervousness onto their children.

Kids, on the other hand—although at the beginning they are just in for the ride—start learning right away not only not to fear water, but also to respect it. From the very first class, Oliver dove underwater and learnt to hold his breath when he hears the words, “Ready, steady, go!”. It’s actually amazing how fast they all learned that: by the third class, you could clearly see in their eyes that they knew what was coming and what to do.

This is a short video of Oliver’s first month of swimming classes.

Now that Oliver is 16 months old, he’s not yet swimming nor floating on his own of course, but he can already—and I’m not exaggerating—dive into the swimming pool from a sitting position with no support (and he knows he has to lean forward instead of scooting in); dive into the water from a standing position with almost no support and turn underwater to grab and hold on to the edge; move sideways holding on to the edge of the pool with his hands to reach the stairs with no help at all; float holding on tightly to a “spaghetti” floater. And of course, he’s not scared of diving which makes “supervised” accidents not a problem: in the children pool, where Oliver can walk and jump, when he accidentally goes under and I pick him up (although sometimes he already manages to come back up on his own) he just smiles, wipes his face with his hands and continues playing.

Yes, it would be much easier and more relaxing for me to just put armbands on him and let him float “unsupervised” in the pool. But I don’t, because I believe this method is the best one to get him accustomed with water, to let him become a confident swimmer sooner than later (by the time he turns three he might already be swimming), and teach him survival skills in and around water that might save his life (like not scooting in to get into the pool, which is the best way to hit his head on the edge).

I can’t even start to tell you how happy I am to have found Helene and have followed this beautiful method to get Oliver familiar with water from an early age.

In Marbella, finding such a course is a no-brainer: Little Fishes is the one you want to attend. Helene founded it in 2005 and she’s not only an amazing, qualified teacher who specialises only on babies and toddlers, she’s also a beautiful person we all—babies and mums—adore.

The courses are held in the Spa of the hotel Sultan in Marbella (where swimming pools are filled with salt water with very little chlorine) from September to June. Each course is 10 classes, once a week, and each class lasts about half an hour. Price: 150€/course.

For more info, contact Helene at (+34)686-498-561 or

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