Swimming adventure

Yesterday, we had a little swimming adventure at Finn Valley Leisure Centre in Stranorlar.

We waited until after jellyfish had finished his afternoon nap, and took his new UV protection swimsuit (a €3.49 bargain I spotted in Lidl yesterday after ordering reusable swim nappies for him from Jojo Maman Bebe the day before, which probably won’t arrive for a few more days).

The swimsuit has a top and shorts and I really bought it for splashing in the sea but I think it’s a bit déclassé to take a toddler swimming in just a swim nappy, especially since ours look small on him despite him still being in the right weight category for them.

When we arrived, we took it in turns to take care of the toddler, so I got changed while my husband changed Jellyfish, then we swapped and I held onto the wiggly toddler and inflated his floaty things while my husband got changed.

The pool here is amazing for little ones. There is a separate toddler pool with its own lifeguard. The water hits 0.45m max. It starts off at paddling pool depth so Jellyfish was able to quickly feel confident and in control of the water depth. He loves water anyway so this was just like going to the beach for him. When the water got to his chin, he got a bit worried so we put him in his big orange baby seat and whizzed him around, which he enjoyed last time we swam, before Christmas.

This time, however, we alternated putting him in his seat with letting him experience the water without it (he kept his armbands on). He enjoyed being able to wiggle and kick, and even started trying to move in specific directions to say hello to other babies in the pool.

I really liked how engaged the lifeguards were with the swimmers. I’ve never seen lifeguards actually helping children to swim before, but with enough lifeguards on duty, one was able to give their attention to a disabled child and enable him to experience swimming.

We spent 45 minutes in the water then showered off poolside as Jellyfish is a bit scared of showers. He liked being able to run out of the way of the stream of water and that helped us actually get him showered for a change (usually at home he baths rather than showers and he cried last time I tried to take him into our shower).

We hurried back to the changing room at this point and dried off. I undressed Jellyfish and my husband got his clean nappy on while I got dressed. The changing rooms are unisex with the option of both cubicles or open plan, which made it easy to find space to change Jellyfish and ourselves.

Overall, we all had a great, stress-free time and our little one was able to feel confident in the water which is really important to me as I’m not much of a swimmer (I failed swimming several times in primary school due to my asthma not being controlled, and I’ve never really been confident because of that).

From my own experiences, I wanted our little one to start swimming when he was a tiny baby, but this wasn’t possible. I was very upset that I couldn’t get Jellyfish into baby swim lessons last year, but that’s the trouble with having post-birth complications and a baby who was a few months old when lockdown began.

Like many other new parents last year, we lost so many early baby experiences I’d planned in the years before we got pregnant, so many chances for him to interact with other people and experience things out and about in the big wide world, and it was hard to deal with losing those important developmental opportunities, so hopefully we can make up for it all in the months and years to come.

I drove us home from the pool feeling happy that Jellyfish had enjoyed exploring the water and splashing around, and seeing other babies his own age doing the same. I would recommend this pool if you’re local in the County Donegal or Strabane area and looking for things to do with your baby or toddler, as the toddler pool is such a nice area to swim with a baby or toddler. I’ve honestly never seen such a nicely-designed public swimming pool before, and it’s definitely worth the €6 entry ticket per adult.

There’s free parking on-site and the toddler leisure swim is available 10am-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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