Greenpoint Gazette

Ahoy! It’s a baby!: Williamsburg Cuties Learn to Swim

BY Adriane Quinlan

When Danilo Krvavac was two-and-a-half, he fell into the sea. “Somehow I was able to float,” said the Williamsburg dad. “After that, all I wanted to do was be in the pool.” Krvavac, a buff yet modest Williamsburg dad, ended up qualifying for the 2000 Olympic swim team representing his homeland, Serbia. And though he’s no longer training for the Olympics, he’s still spending a lot of time in the water.
On Sundays, he stands in the center of a small, well-heated pool while around him swim pairs of mommies and babies or daddies and babies—like a sort of Busby Berkeley movie that could be titled “Baby Soup.” This is Krvavac’s job as the Swim Director and Co-owner of Aquanilo, which opened this past month to offer Williamsburg parents a way to teach their tots to be comfortable around water. Alongside baby yoga classes and baby computer games, it’s just the latest thing you thought was adults-only, now made kid-friendly.
After his fall at two-and-a-half, Krvavac was lucky to be alive. Most toddlers who fall into water will drown, Krvavac says, but toddlers who have had exposure to water have a better likelihood of saving themselves by floating. That is one reason why, when Krvavac had a daughter seven months ago, he sought to teach her to be comfortable in the water. By combining techniques he had learned as a professional infant swim instructor in Serbia with his own research, Krvavac developed the five-week program.
At the first lesson, most four-to-twelve month old babies are naturally fearful of getting dunked. By the fifth class, they’re like the little dude on the front of the classic Nirvana album: They will be able to swim a foot-or-so underwater toward their parents, who are always in the pool beside them. Krvavac runs the same class for toddlers from one through 4 years old. It’s the only class of its kind in the area; the only other infant classes are survival classes, which, because they enact accidents are, Krvavac explained, “traumatizing to kids.” He didn’t want his daughter to be a part of that.
This gentler program is designed to help the baby feel comfortable in the water. But it also tries to increase bonding between the parent and the child, and to promote the baby’s physical development. Dana, the mother of a 7 month-old boy, looked on as her husband and son scooted around after a rubber ducky. As both parents work full-time, they sought something they could do together with him on the weekends. “We both take really good care of ourselves, we think physical activity is important,” she said, of herself and her husband. “This is like the only physical activity my son does.”
Recent mother Jodi was looking for a way that her son, who is blind, could, she said, “feel his body, become a little more comfortable.”
Krvavac, who works a job during the week enjoys doing it so much that he hopes they can expand to other pools. To teach swimming to this age group, Krvavac needs a pool with a temperature between 89 and 95 degrees and is not chlorinated with harsh chemicals but with salts. He and his business partner, Yaron Landow, were elated to find that the Greenspan Spa, at 39 Ainslie Street, had a small pool they could rent out. They also tapped the owner of Manhattan Avenue’s “Stork Store,” Stephanie Watson-Campbell, to oversee all aspects of the class as she is trained as a doula—an expert on infant development.
The class, Krvavac pointed out, isn’t important just for safety and physical reasons, but it also helps parents to bond with their children who in the pool must learn to trust that their parents won’t let go. “The trust grows,” Krvavac said. “All the way until you can go through submersion.” Next week, the parents have been asked to bring goggles. “I haven’t told them yet what they’ll be doing,” Krvavac said. It can be tough to explain to a parent that their baby—their little baby—is actually going to swim.

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