Water Babies splash it up

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Pairing fun and education is always a good thing. Even better is education that's so much fun, you don't realize you're learning.

Family Advocacy is offering that kind of fun to your young children every week at the Aquatic Center with Water Babies, a class held every Wednesday at 11 a.m. for pregnant women and parents with healthy children 8 weeks to 3 years old. The class, which does not actually teach children to swim, is set up as a bonding and fun developmental time.

"Babies have time with their parents and participate in activities that foster brain development, fine and gross motor skills and social skills," said Puffet Cook, New Parent Support Program nurse and one of the class instructors.

She said her class starts out with singing and movement, moves on to safety, and includes age-appropriate kickboard exercises and water-ball play. No matter the activity or age of the child, Ms. Cook said the babies can always move at their own pace.

"There's no pushing; this is a happy place," she said. "We want you walk out of there having had a positive experience."

The class price is unbeatable - free for the babies and for active-duty members, and $1 for non-active-duty parents. This works out extremely well for participants like Master Sgt. Bernadette Worsham, who attends the weekly water course for free. Sergeant Worsham and her 6-month-old daughter Samantha have been attending the class since Samantha was just 2 months old.

"The class gives you a chance to get out and meet other parents," said Sergeant Worsham. "It also gives the babies skills, like coordination and relational skills. The kids learn to share and interact ... and Samantha loves it. She just loves the water."

And while that love for water comes a bit slower for some kids, it eventually does come.

"Some of the kids cry the first few times," said Ms. Cook. "Most of the time, though, after they get in and see the other kids, they do really well."

Ms. Cook added that soon-to-be or new mothers don't have to wear a swimsuit to the class. "Moms can wear whatever they want - a swimsuit, a tank top and shorts; I don't care," she said. "I don't want a mom to avoid the class because she doesn't have a swimsuit, especially a post-partum mom."

Dads are also welcome to attend the class with their children, though Family Advocacy requests just one parent to attend per child, to keep space free for children. All children must wear swim diapers.

The next class Water Babies is Feb. 14; parents and children do not need to pre-register, but can call 247-3249 for information.