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Prepping the stage in a bathtub setting provides sensory stimuli from different angles. Colorful balls, floating toys, sponges and cups help promote visual tracking and response. Early eye-hand coordination is in play here with the stimulation of visual development, Peter Shrock says.

The aquatic educational community has long advocated for the introduction of infants to the water as soon as a newborn enters the world. Since the moment of conception occurred, baby has been surrounded in a fluid environment.

With acclimation to water already set in motion, it makes sense to continue nurturing the infant in the aquatic medium. Ideally year-round, once-per-week instruction is an optimum avenue to follow. Learning as we grow at this stage offers abundant opportunity to experience free mobility and gain confidence with movement as we develop in the aquatic medium. Remember, we crawled before we walked.

Bathtub play starts with babies’ first experience in the starter tub, which presents an excellent opportunity for new infants and parents to share an exciting phase of parenthood. Infants tend to flourish with the focused attention showered upon them in this setting.

The first exposure of bathtub water to the body will immediately present stimuli-rich opportunities. Ensuring the bathtub water is a comfortable 90 degrees, the infant experiences its first step in aquatic education with all their senses.

The skin — the largest organ of the body — is a first-sensory system. Stimulation from the pressure of the water over the body aids in development and organization of the nervous system. Water provides the body with 600 to 700 times the resistance of air. The simple motion of gently pouring water, through a colander over the infant’s head or tickling the sole of the foot encourages neurological development.

Prepping the stage in a bathtub setting provides sensory stimuli from different angles. Colorful balls, floating toys, sponges and cups help promote visual tracking and response. Early eye-hand coordination is in play here with the stimulation of visual development.

Bath time can also promote parent-child bonding and communication. Zero to 4 months old is a critical time for establishment of infant-parent relationships. Important aquatic kinesthetic discovery skills, such as being relaxed on their stomach or back, can happen in a bathtub surrounded by stimulating colors and toys.

As baby grows, so does the surrounding bathtub size, accommodating more volume of water. Once baby is used to getting their ears full of water, this can encourage them to sit up. The infant’s growth will augment them to start sitting up in the tub.

The simple volume transition facilitates understanding of the feel, turbulence, buoyancy and weight of the water. This understanding develops the level of aquatic readiness necessary for further skill acquisition.

As children grow, so does their experience with water. Tune in each month to read more helpful hints about aquatic education. 

Peter Schrock has 57 years of involvement in aquatics as a competitor, head coach, teacher and owner of an aquatic instructional enterprise, the Family Swim School in the Minneapolis/St. Paul south metro area. Shrock retired to Sheridan in 2018. 

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