Visiting other swim schools to learn from others and share best practice in baby swimming approaches has always been part of our development at Blue Wave Swim School in London. So when I was in Iceland in October to attend the bi-annual Nordic Baby Swimming Conference, I jumped at the chance to visit Ungbarnasund Snorra – Snorri’s baby swimming in Iceland run by Snorri Magnússon.
The school was founded in 1990 by Mr Snorri Magnússon. Snorri, the chairman of Iceland Baby Swimming Association, is a Physical Education teacher and has been a baby swim teacher since the 1980s.
He was Iceland’s first baby swimming teacher and his swim school has served many families in Iceland including the current president’s family. Snorri’s reputation has spread throughout Europe and he is particularly well known for his unique approach to baby swimming through the integration of balance and strength training.
He’s very much the ‘go-to’ on this subject as demonstrated by his frequent media interviews and a 2017 UK Channel 4 news programme featuring him and his techniques.
The British may have their pubs, the French their cafés, the Icelandic people have … their local swimming pools. Going to the swimming pool in Iceland is a national past time.
For Icelanders swimming pools are places to exercise, relax, meet friends and socialise and enjoy the hot tubs.
Icelanders start going to the pool from a very early age and baby swimming lessons can easily be found virtually everywhere. School swimming lessons are mandatory and even the smallest village or community has a good sized swimming pool.
The majority of baby swimming experts agree that baby swimming lessons should be focused around using water as a medium to ‘nurture’ children’s physical growth and overall development.
In the same way that the amniotic fluid aids a baby in the development of muscles, limbs, lungs and digestive system, after birth, water can play a similar role. Baby swimming lessons in Nordic countries have been based on this notion.
Snorri’s is a strong believer that you cannot teach a baby to swim as they lack the requisite cognitive abilities.
But he does believe that providing a mixture of strength and balance activities in the water is relaxing for babies and stimulates their growth and development. Attending baby swimming lessons gives you plenty of opportunities and time to have skin-to-skin contact with your little ones. There are plenty of cuddles in the swimming pool or when you are changing and drying your baby.
Snorri is famous for enabling babies under four months to stand on their own. It may be hard to believe but through some simple exercises using his palms or kickboards, he trains very young babies to stand up much earlier than the usually expected age. Watching him doing those practices was absolutely fascinating.
Snorri also does many other strength training exercises which help babies to develop their core muscles.
Focus on the FUN! Use lots of different activities and be gentle and calm. Snorri advises parents to use the water to bond with their babies and create happy memories to instil a love of water in children in the first instance.
The teaching technique part can take place later. You can learn more of Snorri’s approach to baby swimming during my interview with him here.