Conditioning means practices performed above the water in class, to gently introduce babies and toddlers to water on their face, in preparation for submersion.  

Parent should continue conditioning practices at every bath time, during fun play activities.  Using a sponge or cup.

Conditioning starts with a key phase which we call the verbal CUE:

Name, Ready?, Go!

The goal is for baby to react to the verbal cue.

Name –  baby is alert and looks when their name a called.

Ready? – asking the question? – Baby knows/learns this word means ‘prepare for something’.

Go! – Clear instruction it’s happening now.

Directives for Verbal cue in Conditioning: (To be said by parent in a clear, consistent tone of voice each time).

Parent calls baby’s name, gets their attention and eye contact.

Then says “Ready, GO!” After “GO” slight pause to allow baby time to hear and react to the cue words before sprinkling or pouring water on baby’s head and down face.   

Baby/ Toddler Reactions:

With practice babies and toddlers learn to prepare themselves when hearing the cue words.

Preparing reactions are often screwing up face, closing their eyes, breathing in and closing their mouth.  Babies will hold their breath firstly through natural born reflex then through learnt reactions to cues and conditioning.  Parents watch their babies closely, learning what their baby does and looking for signs of understanding the cue and early agreement to water going on their face.

Conditioning Progressions:

Always starting with CUE words “Name, Ready? Go!”…and finishing with praise to baby/ toddler.

  • Wet baby’s cheeks, face and head with hand, lots of skin to skin contact.
  • Sprinkle water with fingers on baby.
  • Cup hand with water and waters baby’s head, and down face.
  • Sprinkling water with watering can or cup on head, and down face.
  • Heavier Sprinkling and Pouring with watering cans and cups – building up time under ‘the pour’ to prepare for Dips.  
  • Older babies and toddler’s encourage to pour water on self with cups and watering cans.

The older the baby/toddlers are when starting swimming lessons, the more likely they are the resist water on their face.  These practices should be done in fun and entertaining ways, so they are likely to want to participate and often want to ‘do it themselves’.  This should be encouraged, as it is a clear sign consent.  

We have a selection of songs to go with Conditioning practices.

Sing the song while sprinkling water around baby, after song, parent turns baby towards them for CUED practices over face/head.

New babies and toddlers joining lessons with no previous swimming lesson experience – must be at least in their third week of lessons, before teachers suggests trying a submersion.

Children joining from other swim schools, will need time to adjust to new surroundings and we need to ensure both parent and child are confident and happy in submerging.  Talk to parent!

Conditioning to Dips/Submersion

Verbal Cue + Lift and Lower Movement + Parent-baby interaction = Best prepared

When babies are showing good signs of reacting to the cue words and are relaxed and happy with a pour/heavy sprinkling of water for 2-3 seconds they are ready to try submerging.

When a baby is ready to transition from Conditioning to Dips/Submerging, a deliberate lift and lower movement is added to the cue words to further prepare baby and set up the approach into the water, with smooth movements.

Giving the right amount of preparation time for baby to hear the cue words Ready? feel the lift, and react to the lower feeling and word GO!

Parent communicates clearly and can see all reactions and interactions of the baby…

So when parents submerge their baby, they can feel confident their baby has understood the cue, what’s happening and is best prepared for the submersion.

As babies get older, the Movement cue, the ‘set up’ becomes the primary cue and needs to be the same each time.  The verbal cue becomes the secondary cue.