Three-year-old ‘thinks on his fins’ and saves own life on family holiday

Three-year-old Max Clayman, from Buckinghamshire, is quite the remarkable toddler. Whilst on a family holiday in Portugal, he took a tumble and fell into the pool – to the horror of his parents, Francesca and Richard. But before his parents even had time to leap into action, little Max quickly splashed himself to the side of the pool and back to his Mum – a life-saving skill he’d learnt during weekly Water Babies swimming lessons.

Drowning continues to be the third highest cause of death in children in the UK so, stories don’t always end in the way Max’s did. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 60 children drown* every summer – yet the majority of these deaths could have likely been avoided. To raise awareness and support for Drowning Prevention Week, which runs from the 10th-24th June, Francesca is keen to share the story. She hopes to communicate the dangers of water and how important baby swimming is to other mums and dads. Francesca puts Max’s bravery and initiative down to the skills picked up during his swimming lessons, which the family started after moving to the area in late 2017.

“Max started swimming with Water Babies when he was only 18 months old and he’s really excelled since then. Richard and I were both really keen that he learnt how to swim at a young age and I’m so glad we acted on it! It’s just such a key life-skill and our experience is certainly proof of that. Although I was close enough to intervene had he got into real difficulty, we were both so proud that he was able to think on his feet – or is that fins? – and get himself to safety in a matter of seconds.”

As with many other three-year-olds when on a family holiday, Max had spent most of that day splashing in the pool with his Dad. As the time came to leave, father and son were drying off beside the water whilst Francesca packed away the beach bag. Francesca reflects on those next few fateful seconds and how quick little Max was to react.

“Ever the cheeky little boy, Max went to push his Dad in the pool and lost his footing in the process. Richard fell in, not realising Max followed him soon after. Before Richard had a chance to come back up, Max had bobbed up to the surface, splashed his way to the side of the pool and monkeyed his way back to me, a foot or so away, at the steps to the pool.

“Monkeying is a Water Babies reference, for grabbing on to the side or parent, which is essentially the life-saving skill he has learnt from swimming with Water Babies. We got him out of the pool, wrapped him in a towel and both told him how proud we were. Once he’d calmed down a bit – I couldn’t tell if it was the shock of falling in, or how cold the water was! – he made one request. He demanded I call his Water Babies teacher and tell her what he’d done!”

Max quickly got back to the task in hand – enjoying his last summer holiday with his Mum and Dad before he becomes a big brother in June. He has since returned to his weekly swimming lessons, after taking time to proudly tell his much-loved teacher, Nic, and his friends at Water Babies, what he’d done on holiday.

“I can’t help but think how things might have gone had he not known what to do. Although we would have made sure he was safe, that second or two longer in the pool could have been really detrimental to his safety. I’m so keen to share our story because our experience could have gone completely differently had it not been for our swimming lessons, which we go to as a family. As soon as our little girl joins us, she’ll be following in her big brothers’ footsteps and starting lessons too, that’s for sure!”


For more information about Water Babies, visit


To speak with Francesca Clayman, contact Kelly Ayres at Rev PR on 07895 875745 or email

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About Water Babies

In a nutshell, we teach water confidence and safety skills to babies and toddlers. However, we're about so much more besides. Our classes are great for making new friends, helping to enhance the bonding process, having fun... and seeing the utter thrill of your little one gliding underwater towards you. In the last three years alone we know our lessons were directly responsible for saving the lives of ten little ones who otherwise might have tragically drowned. That makes us very proud. And we like raising money for other babies. To date, we've raised over £750,000 for Tommy's. And we're aiming to raise another £200,000 for them (possibly!) this coming summer.