QUEENS — A swimming program for infants has recently expanded in Forest Hills, offering classes for babies where they learn new skills in water that is warmer than normal, organizers said.
Marina Sorochinski, 32, a Ph.D. student in forensic psychology, said her son Misha, who is almost 2 years old, “was not a big fan of water before.”
But after three classes, she said, "he is much more at ease with the water." He even tries to swim in the bathtub at home, "kicking and pretending that he is swimming and diving in," she said.
During the classes, children, who are accompanied by their parents, become acclimated to the water, said Kelly Arias, an instructor at the Quest location, who also runs a support group for local moms and has experience as an infant massage instructor.
By using games, floating devices and toys, children learn their first swimming skills, including breath control, arm movements and leg kicks, she said.
The groups are small and usually consist of no more than six babies who are up to 2½ years old. They sing songs, play with bubbles and various toys, Arias said.
“It develops their visuals, motor skills and auditory skills,” Arias said. “Because you are doing so much — you are singing, you are doing hand-eye coordination with the toys and they are also socializing because they see the same babies every week.”
Arias said that the class strengthens the bond between the parents and their children. At the same time it teaches babies independence because “parents are encouraged to hold them out in the water instead of hugging them close to their chest,” Arias said.
The babies also learn to hold their breath under the water.
“It's really impressive when you see the parents dunk their babies in the water just for a couple of seconds,” Arias said. “They come up and sometimes they’ll be a little bit startled but it’s usually great.”
Arias added that “parents don’t do anything that they are not comfortable with or that the baby doesn’t like.”
Glenn Pepper, who runs the program, said the real difference between his swim school and other classes is the water temperature. Most of the pools keep the water at 79 to 82 degrees, he said, while during his programs the water is warmed up to between 88 to 90 degrees.
He also said that sometimes, when children refuse to go to other pools, it's not because they are not ready, but because the water is too cold.
Wendy Yuen, 35, a golf wear designer, said the classes give her and her 20-month-old daughter Persephone a chance to spend time together and have fun.
“It’s something for me to do with her,” Yuen said. “And she really likes it.”
Take Me to The Water Swim School offers its programs at the Forest Hills Jewish Center at 106-06 Queens Blvd. and at Quest Spa & Fitness Center at 111-20 Queens Blvd. The school has more locations around the city and in New Jersey. 10 classes cost $250. For more information, go here.