'Bubble Babies' Take First Bobs in Pool

In the Bubble Babies program at the Downtown Community Center, tots as young as six month get a feel for the water.

Mar. 19, 2013

They mostly bobbed and floated. Some paddled. A few advanced students blew bubbles.

But this was not the class for parents who saw a budding Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps in their children.

Here, instructor Vanessa King serenaded students with “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Ring Around the Rosie.”

And parents and other caregivers were delighted with the tiniest of steps.

Take Suzii Chan, who repeatedly dunked her nine-month-old boy, Auden, under the water. He resurfaced looking startled, but he didn’t cry.

“I did it for a split second last time, and he was OK,” Chan explained, “so this time I just went for it.”

Not all babies take easily to the water, said King, who runs “Bubble Babies,” a program for children ages six months to two years and whose families are members of Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center. But the sooner children become acclimated to the water, the easier it is to teach them to swim.

“If you put kids who are three or four years old into the water for the first time, they’re afraid,” King noted. “But if you don’t have to worry about that, you can actually get them working on skills.”

On a recent morning, eight-month-old Colette Chandra was all smiles when her mom, Marie Chandra, put her through a Bubble Baby drill.

“It seems very natural to her,” Chandra said. “I was surprised.”


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