Getting in the swim is a double winner

HEALTHY and safe, it’s perfect for babies too, writes Debra Taylor.

The life saving skill can benefit our children for the rest of their lives. Picture: SNS

A new national framework for swimming was launched last week by Scottish Swimming, the national governing body. Their aim is to help everybody to be a “Triple S” (Scotland Safe Swimmer). Their objective is based on establishing core aquatic skills – being confident in the water, developing efficient stroke technique and developing a wider range of skills for all to be ready for life-long swimming and not just producing swimmers who are “club ready”.

It comes on the back of startling statistics from Scottish Swimming which recently showed almost 40 per cent of children cannot swim by the time they leave primary school.

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This situation could have an impact on our children throughout their lives.

Swimming is a life-saving skill, of that there is no doubt. Drowning is sadly the third most common cause of death among children and accounts for 400 deaths in the UK every year, many of which could have been prevented if the victims had greater water confidence.

At Edinburgh Leisure, we firmly believe that taking your child swimming from as early an age as possible should be high on your list of priorities. That’s why swimming is free to under fives at Edinburgh Leisure pools.

We offer the widest range of swimming facilities and expertise within the capital and currently have almost 7,000 children enrolled in over 700 swim lessons across the city. I have been involved in swimming for 36 years (17 with Edinburgh Leisure) and have tutored early years swimming for 25 years. l want to inspire people to be as passionate about swimming as I am.

Any parent knows only too well that the early years of bringing up a child are particularly hard as they try to juggle the many requirements and demands on their time. So it’s good to get into a habit as early as possible. Babies are, quite literally, born to swim, which is why we run adult and baby classes. In the first six months of life, they have primitive reflexes inherited in the womb which tells them instinctively how to move in the water. These first few months, therefore, are the ideal time to get them in the pool and begin their swimming journey before they have a chance to become unfamiliar with being submerged in water.

NHS guidelines have also recently changed, indicating there is no longer a need to wait until your child has had their first immunisations before taking them swimming.

The benefits to children from swimming don’t just stop at the potentially life-saving element. It has a wealth of health benefits – to your respiratory system and circulation, strengthening your heart and lungs and improving balance and co-ordination.

Recent scientific studies at the German Sports College in Cologne by Professor Liselott Diem found that early year-round swimming lessons for young children accelerated their development physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Swimming was found to increase strength, co-ordination and problem solving. Baby swimmers demonstrated greater self-discipline, self control and rated higher in self-esteem, all in comparison with a control group which did not take year-round lessons.

And for new mums too, swimming classes can be an excellent opportunity to get out and meet others who are getting to grips with the often daunting world of parenting for the first time. It is also a great bonding experience to enjoy with your child, together in the water and it makes you feel good too!

Whatever your child’s age, all of our venues offer excellent parent and child changing facilities and our pool temperatures all fall within the recommended (and comfortable) range of 28 to 32 degrees. We would also be pleased to chat to anxious parents in advance of any lessons about exactly what to expect at their class or from a visit

Edinburgh Leisure is here to cater for everyone and across our to pools across the city we offer adult and toddler drop in classes as well as female only, family fun times and disability sessions.

I want to encourage you, as a parent, to get swimming with your little ones as soon as possible. Working with the new national framework from Scottish Swimming, we are able to help ensure your children learn to be safe swimmers and to achieve their goal and reach their full potential. I have been able to contribute to the technical elements of the programme – I really do believe your children will thank you for it in years to come!

• Debra Taylor is swim education co-ordinator with Edinburgh Leisure.