Toddler Triathlon for Sport Relief

I’ve been hearing all about the charity that is Sport Relief through the adventures of Team Honk on twitter and their blog. Then when Granny came back from Sainsbury’s with a red Sport Relief t-shirt for the boys and their cousin, it gave me an idea for helping to fundraise. On the back of the t-shirt there are three words printed at the top: run, swim, cycle. Aha, I thought, that’s a triathlon, and wouldn’t it be cool if Andrew did a mini triathlon and we got people to sponsor him. He loves all 3 of those activities, and would be more than wiling to spend a day doing them. So here’s the plan…

On Thursday 20th March, we will head to Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre in Leamington for the aquatic bit and then come back to the Memorial Park in Coventry for the terrestrial bits. Andrew will:

– swim 2 widths of the splash pool (roughly 20m)

– cycle (on his balance bike, not confident enough on his new pedal bike yet) to the park and around the top field in the park (approximately 1 mile in total)

– run across the top field in the park (approximately 500m)

IMG 1547
In training – on the bike
IMG 1572
Leggings made by Mummy, upcycled from two of my jumpers. Thought they went well with his t-shirt. They’re really Joel’s but just about fit Andrew too 🙂

Now comes your chance to help this charity, who give shelter to young people living on the streets or affected by domestic abuse in the UK and who give the chance of an education and fresh water to children abroad in poorer countries – these are just some examples of what they do. I’ve set up a Just Giving page where you can sponsor Andrew in his mini triathlon attempt. Any amount, whether £1 or £10 can make a difference, and we’d be very grateful if you could spare some change.

I will of course do an update on the blog when he’s done it, and let you know how much we’ve raised. I’m sure we’ll all have a lot of fun, especially a very active Andrew.

Linking up with #CountryKids as usual

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Growing and swimming

At the weekend we went swimming as a family for the first time in a few weeks. I used to go at least once a week when Andrew was little, but now that I have 2 under 3s, it’s impossible to go on my own and I need to wait until we can go as a family. There aren’t many times that our handily very local pool is free when we are all able to go (when Daddy isn’t at work and the boys aren’t asleep). So it was great to seize an opportunity while we could and head to the pool.

We have used the Delphin float system with Andrew since he was about 14 months old, because he was getting so distracted in the pool and wanting to swim off on his own and not be held be me all the time. I decided that floats were easier than arm bands, which I can’t stand blowing up, and you can take one float of the 3 on each arm away to reduce the buoyancy a little at a time. We took it down to 2 a little while ago and he coped very well, and today we thought it was time to try with just one on each arm. He did very well and knew exactly what he had to do to keep afloat by kicking his legs hard, and only needed a little more help than he had done with the two floats per arm.

Andrew at 14 months old modelling his Delphin floats. Can’t believe Joel is this big now!

At one point I saw a noodle float – one of those long cylindrical floats that they seem to use with teaching kids how to swim and in aqua aerobics classes. I tried him with one of these when he was having his distraction issues before I bought the arm floats, but at that time he wouldn’t keep hold of it as he wanted to grab toys and generally splash about and didn’t understand that it would help him stay afloat. But this time he fully understood that this long float could help him, and he was happy to swim with it under his chest with one hand holding on to it and still have a hand free to grab toys. So we took the last remaining Delphin float off each arm and just let him use the noodle, which he loved. Of course we kept a close eye on him because he did occasionally let it slip from underneath him, but was generally able to right himself.

There is usually at least one of these noodle floats in the pool we go to, but now I’m looking out for a cheap one to buy, because then we’ll have it wherever we swim and also at the local pool if it’s busy and someone else is using any that are there. I’m hoping this will now encourage him to swim unaided and give him confidence to do so. I want to avoid paying for expensive lessons as long as possible, and I’m hoping that my knowledge of technique from my competitive swimming days will help me teach him how to go from just splashing about to purposefully moving in the water.

Joel is now starting to get very nosey in the water, just like Andrew was, and is less happy just to be held and swooshed about by us like he used to. So we put the arm floats on him instead, and he was happy to have a bit more freedom and independence. He still needed supporting under the tummy otherwise he tended to float onto his back which he’s not keen on. Having seen how well Andrew has got on with these floats and that it clearly hasn’t impeded his learning to swim as he didn’t seem to get overly reliant on the buoyancy, I’m glad we can now use them on Joel too.

It’s exciting watching my boys grow and develop their water skills, and I’m so glad they find swimming a lot of fun, because that’s the most important thing at this age.

Devon holiday – part 3: Around Plymouth, parks & swimming

This is my fourth and final post about what we got up to on holiday this summer. First I blogged about our day trip to Coombe Mill, then I wrote about our brilliant National Trust days out, and our days at the beach. This week’s post is all about the days we spent closer to home, visiting places that Tom went to as a child, and seeing how they’ve changed (or not!) down the generation.

The weather on the Thursday didn’t look too promising, so we decided to stick close to home and head to Plymouth Hoe for a walk around the sea front and go to the park on the west side of the Hoe area. Part of the fun was getting the boat across the Sound from Mount Batten to the Barbican rather than driving into the city centre. Andrew loved this experience, and was keen to sit on the top deck of the double decker ferry! When we got off the boat, we walked around the Hoe at toddler pace – he jogged and we followed! When we got to the lighthouse at the top, we stopped for a break and had a drink in the cafe, before carrying on to our special destination…. West Hoe Park, home of Gus Honeybun and his train.


Now I had never heard of Gus, a rabbit. Tom explained that he was the mascot for the local ITV broadcasting station back in the 1960s-1990s. There is a little train ride for kids in the park that to this day has Gus riding around on it. Just like his Daddy did years ago, Andrew was thrilled to see this train in action, and was keen to jump on and have go himself (at only 50p each I thought it was a bargain!) Train madness runs in the family.

Plymouth 1

Also at the park was a bouncy castle, which Andrew had fun on for a while, though we all decided that it was time for a picnic before he got over hungry – he still doesn’t quite get that you have to keep your energy up when running around outside, and if he’s not reminded to eat it all ends in tears, literally! After we’d replenished our energy, it was time for the playground, where both boys had a go on the swings and slides, and Andrew did some climbing.

Plymouth 2

He’d also spotted another part of the park that had rides and games suitable for toddlers to early teens – a crazy golf course, ride on cars and boats, remote control cars and boats, diggers, trampolines, and panning for ‘gold’. He really wanted to go on the boats, so the grandparents bought him some tokens and I volunteered to go on the boat with him – it was slightly more ‘spinny’ than I normally like, but he thought it was hilarious and his roars of laughter were enough to make me laugh out loud too! After that we explained that he had some more tokens so he could go on something else – he chose a ride on electric car. The sign said that young children should be accompanied by an adult, so Pop was volunteered to ride on with him (I was still recovering from the boat ride and Tom had Joel asleep on his back in the sling). Andrew chose a sports car, so Pop could sit on the spoiler at the back and help with the steering – that was the plan at least, but Andrew refused to let him help, so we watched a hilarious 5 minutes of Andrew pretty much singlehandedly driving a car around the track and Pop looking petrified!!

Plymouth 3

Having survived that ride, the next one he wanted to try was the diggers, and with a bit of help rom Daddy, he successfully scooped some gravel around the pit. After that he wanted to go back on the car track, so Grandad then had a turn with him, and then I was volunteered to go on one with him to use the last token we had. It was fun, if a little scary! But soon he was getting very tired, and had a rather loud tantrum at the fact that we wouldn’t let him slide down the final hole of the crazy golf course where other people were trying to play! So we encouraged him into the buggy for a ride in it to the boat, and he fell asleep as soon as we got home.

Plymouth 4

A couple of days later on the Saturday, our final day on holiday, the weather was also decidedly wet, and as we hadn’t been swimming yet all week, we knew this would be a good plan. Last year we’d enjoyed a good swim in the brand new Plymouth Life Centre, which has a 50m swimming pool, leisure pool and diving pool (Tom Daley’s home territory!), so we went there again. Unfortunately so had everyone else, understandably as it was a wet Saturday in holiday season, and the leisure pool was full with a waiting list for another hour or so. Instead we went into the main pool, which they had roped off into various sections – some for swimming lengths and some for families with kids to play in.

Both boys loved it, despite it not being the warmest of pools that they have swum in! Andrew had fun jumping in from the side repeatedly, and Joel was happy to kick around on his tummy whilst being passed between various family members. The boys’ uncle and aunts joined us too, so we were quite a party, and that meant that the adults could take it in turns to go and have a ‘proper’ swim, which I took full advantage of as I don’t get to go swimming for myself much these days and I miss it. There weren’t as many toys and floats as in the leisure pool, and Andrew kept asking if he could have some, but there were enough of us to distract him and keep things fun without the toys. Joel particularly liked it when I swam underwater and popped up in front of him suddenly – he jumped but laughed, several times!

Plymouth 5

The swimming pool is located in a large park called Central Park, and there is also a large playground with all sorts of climbing frames, swings, slides, water features, bouncers etc., which we had to go and try out too. Joel napped for this part of the morning, but Andrew was so excited with all the different things to do in the park. There was a notice board explaining that the playground had been designed to reflect the different continents in different sections of the equipment. I’d not seen this kind of plan behind a park before.

And that was the end of our summer holiday. We had a lot of fun, got up to lots of activities, and we’re already looking forward to going back next year and having some more adventures!

Linking up our adventures with the lovely Country Kids linky over at Coombe Mill’s blog

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Baby crawl

I’m trying to make sure that Joel goes swimming as often as possible. As I myself was a little water baby and have loved swimming for as long as I can remember, it means a lot to me to take my own babies swimming and get them confident in water. When Andrew was Joel’s age, we went swimming once a week together, sometimes more often. I know that second (and third/fourth etc.) children will never get the same experience as the first, and generally I accept that because I can see the good points of being the second as well as the bad. But if there’s one thing that gets to me, it’s not being able to take both boys swimming on my own.

We go as often as we can as a family as well as with grandparents whenever we’re with them, which seems to have worked out at once every 2-3 weeks since Joel was 8 weeks old. So I was particularly happy when the boys naps/feeds/meals conspired in our favour on Sunday afternoon and meant that we had a time to go swimming. Plus it was drizzling so we thought swimming was better than going for a walk anyway.

Now Joel is desperate to crawl. He can see his big brother (an advantage of being a second child) and clearly wants to follow him. So he has figured out how to go backwards and turn around on the spot and generally he lies on his front flapping his arms and legs A LOT! If I put him down on the floor on his back, he immediately rolls onto his tummy and starts his attempts to move (and conquer the world 🙂 ) Watch this video if you want to see some attempts to crawl on land, including leg kicks and arm flaps that would serve him well in a swimming pool, especially towards the end of the video.

We’ve been joking recently that he looks like he’s swimming on land, so it’s lovely to watch how he reacts in water when he’s on his tummy (again he doesn’t really like being on his back, just like on land). He does the same crawling action, flapping his arms and legs, which of course looks so good in water – baby crawl! In fact he looked more like an adult swimmer than his big brother who, as usual, was busy flitting between playing with different toys and being upright in the water a lot of the time rather than just swimming back and forth on his front.

Although it’s been a few weeks since our last swim, I was so pleased that both boys took to the water just like ducks, happy to splash and play in the pool. I think the most important point about swimming at this age is just to have fun and get used to the water, which we seem to be achieving, so that makes me happy too. Hopefully it won’t be long before we go again, probably the weekend after next, and Joel can show us some more baby crawl action!

We still don't have any photos of Joel swimming because we always go in the pool all together. But here is my artist's impression of what he looks like in the water ;)
We still don’t have any photos of Joel swimming because we always go in the pool all together. But here is my artist’s impression of what he looks like in the water 😉

Swimming with a baby

Happy New Year! As much as I love writing, it was lovely to have a good break from it over the past week or so, and spend time relaxing at my parents’ house where Andrew was well entertained and pretty much all I did was feed Joel, chat with family and friends and get as much sleep as possible. This was exactly what I needed after looking after two under 2s for the best part of 6 weeks.

My little boys in their matching Christmas pyjamas 🙂

There was one more thing that I did though, and that was take Joel swimming for the first time. At 8 weeks old, I decided that it was definitely time to hit the water with him, given that I went even earlier, at 6 weeks, with Andrew – this is one of a few things that I feel bad about Joel getting a different experience from Andrew due to the fact that he’s a second child and I can’t take both of them on my own. Since Tom wasn’t working and we had a rather wet and miserable morning to ourselves, we headed down to the pool in the centre of Coventry. This took me back to days gone by when I used to spend quite a bit of time training there as a member of the City of Coventry swim club. It hadn’t changed much, although we went in the family splash pool instead of the Olympic pool where I used to train.

To begin with I took charge of Joel and Tom took charge of Andrew. There is a nice shallow bit in the family pool, which meant I could sit down on the floor of the pool and the water came just to my waist. I then held Joel out in front of me, lying him on his back on my forearms stretched out away from my body. I swooshed him gently from side to side and let him feel the flow of the water around him. He definitely liked it, and gave me some big smiles to prove it; he’s always liked the bath and never cried getting into it, so I was hoping for the same reaction here and that’s what I got! After about 10 minutes, Andrew asked if I could take him swimming, so Daddy and I swapped roles, and Andrew and I made our way into the big bit of the pool so that we could go round and round in the gentle rapids together, which he loved.

Blue eyed boy

Joel lasted another 10 minutes or so, until he was clearly wanting a feed again – it’s hungry work this swimming thing! So I got out with him and my other boys carried on in the pool, or, to be precise, on the children’s slide in the shallow bit of the pool. Apparently Andrew spent most of the next half an hour going up and down that slide continuously! It was a successful trip all round, and I’m glad that Joel has had his first dunking in one of his Mummy’s favourite places to be. We’re going to go at weekends to our local pool, the four of us, so that Joel can experience swimming as a baby as similarly as possible to how Andrew did as a baby.

We couldn't get any photos pf Joel's first swim because we were too busy looking after one boy each, but here's one of Andrew swimming when he was 9 months old (the first time I had photos of him swimming as I'd always been on my own until then).

I said aaaaaages ago (here) that I would write a post with tips for going swimming with a baby – not so much the actual swimming, but more the practicalities of getting into and out of the pool, as I covered the swimming itself in a previous post. But with one thing and another (mainly being pregnant again and having another baby!) I didn’t get round to it. So I thought I’d share some thoughts here on the matter. I have to say that we’re very lucky that we live so near the local pool (those of you who know me well won’t be surprised to know that proximity to a swimming pool was high on the list of what made our flat’s location so attractive that we bought it). This in itself makes going swimming with a baby much easier than if we didn’t live so near, and the pool is very baby- and family-friendly in general, with quite a few big changing cubicles with baby change pull-down tables and chairs to strap them in whilst you’re getting changed yourself. Also, the water in the small pool is always just the right temperature, nice and warm for little bodies (though sometimes I’ve found it a little too warm for me, but then I’m used to the colder water of the big pool!) Obviously you might not be quite so lucky in location, but here are some tips for a fun and hopefully not too stressful swim….

  • Find a leisure centre with a warm water pool – babies are sensitive to temperature even more than we are, and they are more likely to enjoy it if they are nice and warm.
  • Make sure there are big changing cubicles, which have a place to put your baby, such as a change table (if they’re not rolling yet), a chair (if they are rolling) or a playpen – you’ll need somewhere to put them whilst you’re changing yourself.
  • Pack your bag well in advance of when you go, whenever you get a spare 5 minutes, maybe the night before, especially if your baby feeds a lot during the day (like mine both have); that way you can more easily get up and go whenever they are ready.
  • Wait for a short while after feeding to get in the water, although some baby sick in the pool is inevitable and these days chlorination is tough on germs without being too tough on baby skin, so don’t be too concerned about timings here.
  • Pack your bag strategically, with things easy to get at – I put costumes and swim nappies at the top, towels in the middle, and clean nappies for afterwards at the bottom. I don’t take my usual change bag but instead have a small bag inside my swim bag that has nappies/wipes etc. which always stays in that bag so I don’t forget to take both a swim bag and a change bag.
  • Make sure you have a coin for the locker easily accessible, maybe in a side pocket on your bag – juggling a baby, a bag and a purse whilst getting out a coin stood in front of a locker is not an advisable sport!
  • Don’t forget swim nappies and clean nappies for afterwards – I take 2 of each kind in case of disasters! We have reusable swim nappies, but I take a spare disposable as well in case anything goes wrong before we get in the pool.
  • Take your baby’s towel through to the poolside so you can put it on them immediately after getting out the pool, otherwise they may well protest at being removed from warm water into colder air.
  • Don’t worry about having a shower at the pool – I find it much easier to dry off there and then come back home for a proper bath and shower later. If you’re worried about chlorine on the skin (though it’s much milder than once upon a time), you can always have a rinse in a poolside shower before getting changed.
  • Try to relax as much as possible, even if you find the first few times rather stressful until you get well practised at it, because your baby is likely to pick up on stress and let you know about it, making for a potentially not very fun swim.

Well there you go, my thoughts on making going swimming with a baby fun and enjoyable. If you have any further ideas, why not comment below – I’ve probably forgotten something, and I’d love to hear other people’s tips too.

A year in the swimming pool

Supporting him under the chest but letting his legs and arms move freely

It’s almost a year since I took Andrew swimming for the first time. He was just 6 weeks old, and loved it! I think at one point there was some advice floating around that you shouldn’t take a baby swimming before he/she had had their first three lots of vaccinations. But the latest NHS guidelines are that you can take them whenever you like. In fact, in my opinion, the earlier the better, because they haven’t lost their newborn natural instinct for water when they’re still just a few weeks old. As I wasn’t blogging back then, I didn’t write about our swimming trips together. Now they’ve become so part of our weekly routine that I almost don’t think about them as something interesting to write about, even though we both have so much fun and really enjoy them. So here’s a round up of Andrew’s first year in the pool, with particular emphasis on his first ever swim. All the photos were kindly taken by Grandma when he was 9 months old (until then I’d only been on my own with him so couldn’t take pictures). In a follow-up post (when I get round to writing it) I’ll share some tips on how to have a fun trip to the pool, some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, what not to forget etc.

He loves the watering can at the pool - he tries to 'catch' the stream of water as it comes out

I remember our first swim like it was yesterday. It was quite an effort to get everything together and go at just the right time between feeds (naps weren’t his strong point so we weren’t too restricted by that), but it was all worth it when we got there. Back in those days I could lay him down on the fold-down changing table in the cubicle, knowing that he wouldn’t go anywhere. I got changed first, so he wouldn’t get cold waiting for me, and then got him into his little trunks. He was just about big enough by then to fit in the smallest size of Boots brand swim nappies which were on offer at the time so worked out the cheapest, and I’d bought a cool little pair of swimming shorts for him that were a bit big for his non-existent bottom (now he’s walking that has definitely muscled up!) Then I wrapped him in a towel, and, after I quickly got into my swim costume myself, took on the actually very difficult task of carrying a tiny baby, a rucksack, a nappy change bag, my handbag and a towel to the locker. That was nothing compared to juggling them all whilst trying to put the coin in the locker. We survived it though, and then headed through to the pool.

About to chase the toy octopus, just after I'd thrown it away from us

It was fairly busy in the small pool, but there was still plenty of room to get in gently down the shallow steps at the side. I introduced him to the water slowly, by sitting down on a step, holding him in one arm and using the other arm to pour water gently onto his skin with a cupped hand. After a few minutes of that, I eased us down into the water a bit more, so that he was completely immersed except for his head. He wasn’t at all phased by it, and was very happy for me to walk around and pull him through the water with me. Of course I was supporting him a lot, especially his head which was still floppy then. He was fascinated by everything that was going on – all the other boys and girls, the lifeguards walking round in bright yellow t-shirts, and the brightly-coloured bath toys like ducks and octopuses that were floating around. Incidentally, the staff at the pool have written a different name on each toy – so there’s Vinny the duck, Alice the octopus and Olly the bear etc. Not that he was really old enough to do much with these himself, but his little eyes and ears were clearly soaking it all up like a sponge. As he was so at ease in the water, I even tried splashing some water around him, and he loved that. It was just about the time when he was starting to smile, and I got lots of smiles and splashing that day. We only stayed in for about 15 minutes, because I didn’t want to risk him getting too cold, though the pool always feels lovely and warm to me, but you can’t tell what a baby’s perception of it is. As we got out, I wrapped him up in the towel again, and then we headed back to the changing cubicles to get dry and dressed. This time I sorted him first, as I can cope with the temperature and still being in a wet costume for a while. He fell asleep on the way home and napped well that afternoon. I soon discovered that swimming was a way to wear him out and guarantee a good nap.

Is it the float or the octopus I'm going for, Mummy?

After that first week, we’ve been swimming more or less every week until now, and I have no intention of stopping this. It’s interesting to look back and see how he’s slowly developed his swimming over time, just like he’s developed in other areas (like moving on land, eating, babbling etc.). At first it was just a case of me holding him and walking around the pool, just like I would on land, supporting him quite a lot. I would use one hand to splash him gently, or play with a toy for him to watch, but generally it was a gentle introduction to the concept of swimming in the water himself.

Heading over to the wall to have a go at jumping in and mummy catching him

As he gained strength from all those growing muscles, he became more able to support himself, so I was able to give him less support, little by little. I went from full arms holding him to just holding him with two hands (or sometimes just one) underneath his chest as he is front down in he water (he much prefers ‘front-crawl’ to ‘backstroke’!) When he was about 5 or 6 months old, I started doing brief dunkings, where I would count to three, and on three I would lift him out of the water and then down again so that his head went under for a second, and then lift him up again. He has clearly learned what this means, because now when I start counting, he’s already jigging up and down in my hands, smiling and laughing ready for the dunk; when he comes out he has a lovely look on his face too, clearly enjoyment. I should say that I’m not a swimming teacher myself, though I’ve done a lot of swimming (competitive and leisure), so I feel confident that I know my and his limits at each stage, and we’ve worked up to this over several months, little by little. Every parent and baby pair is different, so I can’t say that what’s right for us is right for everyone. If you don’t feel confident letting your baby go under or only holding them loosely, DON’T DO IT!!

Chasing the toy octopus! Lots of splashing, but getting the idea that he can move forward by kicking his legs and moving his arms

I came across a great website called uSwim. It gives lots of info and advice on how to teach your baby to swim. Of course it’s Australian – they are so into their swimming over there, and also getting kids into swimming from a very early age. With the help of the videos and ‘lesson plans’ on the website, I’ve been trying particular techniques with Andrew. I haven’t bothered being as strict as sticking precisely to a lesson plan, mainly because he is still so interested in everything else going on that keeping his attention for specific things at specific times is nearly impossible. Instead we ‘go with the flow’ and see what happens.

Nearly got the octopus, just in time before the wall got in the way!

So far from uSwim we’ve been doing quite a few ‘front floats‘, some ‘back floats‘ (though as I said before he’s less keen on backstroke swimming), hanging onto the wall whilst mummy lets go and lets him feel the buoyancy of the water (he’s got amazingly strong arms), jumping from the side in a sitting position into the water, sitting on a float and jumping off it into the water, and a fair amount of singing and general splashing. Oh and I can’t forget his favourite, the toy chase, which does what it says on the tin: I throw a toy like a rubber duck a little way away from us, and he loves to swim and get it, admittedly with me giving some support underneath his chest, but he has got a good idea that moving his arms and kicking his legs in a ‘baby-stroke’ kind of fashion does get him somewhere slowly.

About to go for a dunk!

As he gets even stronger, I’m looking forward to seeing his swimming ability develop even more. The main thing for us is that we both find it so fun, and that’s what I’d always hope is the case for him. I don’t want to force him to do something just because I like it, but so far he has convinced me that he loves being in the water just like his mummy. Watch this space for more updates on what we’re doing in our weekly swims.

All worn out after a fun swim. Off to the shower!