Swimming Babies

So here's a question I invariably get: can you teach my two year old to swim?

Or, is it too soon to put my 15 month old in lessons?

Or something along those lines.

Believe me, people -- I was that mom.

I put my three year old in swim lessons. SO excited for that baby to love to swim as much as I do. And I sat in a steaming hot swim center wrestling an 18-month old while she screamed as if her life were in jeopardy as those poor high school swim teachers wondered what in the world they had done to deserve such a horrible job.

So. After being a mom a few more years and teaching way more kids to swim here is my current philosophy on swim lessons (drumroll please) (and what I would tell that frazzled, sweaty younger me):

Save your money. (or, more accurately, spend it differently). Instead of spending your money on swim lessons for your 3 year old, spend it on a pool membership for your family. Do not try to teach that baby anything. Let her learn on her own. Let her play and figure it out in her own time (which she did, given enough water play time).

That is pretty much my philosophy for kids 3 or younger. When I taught private lessons (which I don't anymore) I wouldn't teach any younger than 5. At my group lessons, they will take them as young as 4. I have some 4 year olds that are doing GREAT. Another group has two 4 year olds that scream the ENTIRE 45 minutes. So, it can depend on the kid.

Other random thoughts/ philosophies on swimming and children:
1)Once they are in lessons, it can be like walking: once they are ready, it just clicks. Boom. They are swimming.

2)To actually swim: face in, alternating arms, blowing bubbles, and kicking-- is so many motor skills a child is generally about 6 or 7 years old before they can really master the crawl. They can safely move the water at 3 or 4, depending on strength and comfort in the water.

3)If your child was safely swimming and/or comfortable in the water at the end of last summer, DO NOT assume they have retained that knowledge and/or comfort level over the last 9-10 months. My babies will lose confidence over the weekend of swimming lessons. 9-10 months can be a LIFETIME for these guys. For that reason, sometimes it can also be better to sign your child up for swim lessons later in the summer rather than earlier if your child has been hesitant about the water (another mistake the younger, dumber me made). Most people want their kids in swim lessons immediately so that they will know how to swim the rest of the summer, but sometimes you spend the whole session just getting the child comfortable in the water instead of teaching him/her how to swim.

4)If you have a GOOD swim lesson program (like the one where I teach) kids continue to learn strokes and skills far beyond the crawl and backstroke. I have been challenged as a teacher, and both of my kids (ages 13 and 11) continue to take lessons (now in what's called 'Guard Start') and are challenged and grow as swimmers.

My children basically got comfortable in the water the summer that our house flooded. Sounds awful, doesn't it? No, I didn't throw them in. We had to move out of our house, and we ended up at some apartments that had a pool. What else would we do? We went to the pool. Every day. My kids (Ages 5 and 7 at the time) played in the water. I was lonely and bordering on insanely depressed and just sat by the pool every day -- not even reading. Just sitting. Barely awake. It's a wonder my children were safe. But they were safe, venturing a little further out every day. Figuring out what they could do on their own.

Maybe it was the next year (no, it was two) that the director of this swim program asked me to come be a teacher and it allowed my kids to have swim lessons for free.

I think it is crucial to get your children comfortable and safe in the water. SO crucial, in fact, I would recommend this: if your finances do not allow you to belong to a pool and/or get swimming lessons, I think you should treat it like a family vacation. Scrimp and save all year long to invest in that for your family. It's that important!

And then go do a big fat cannonball for me!


Linda said...

That's what we did as kids....

Every day, all summer long... swimming lessons. No questions asked.

In a lake, in Massachusetts, beginning in June. :)

I can out-swim the guards at the pool and love it...

My kids are part fish, and now need some more formal instruction... thank you for the reminder!!

Anonymous said...

So good to see you up close and personal at the pool the other day. I AGREE about the pool membership thing. So worth it. I am intrigued by the guard start class, So glad you wrote about it. I'd like to save up for next year.

Great tips.


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