Learn to Swim Tips!
Three Big Keys!
Consistency is Key
When first learning to swim, consider scheduling at least two swim lessons per week. The closer together the lessons are scheduled, the quicker the progress will be. An intensive schedule (i.e., lessons scheduled multiple days in a row over the span of two weeks) followed by bi-weekly lessons is a great way to see fast results. While lessons scheduled once per week may result in a somewhat slower learning progression, consistency is key. Even one weekly lesson can still greatly benefit a swimmer. The physical and mental memory of children is not as sophisticated as adults. As a result, if you go more than one week between swim lessons, the progress made during the last lesson may not be fully retained. For this reason, consistency is of the utmost importance.
Practice is Key
If possible, spend at least one hour per week in the pool (or bath!) outside of class. This can include just "playing" in the water. Children can learn a tremendous amount during "play." It is not as formal and can be done in the comfort of their own home or an environment which is familiar to them. As a parent, spending time getting into the pool and swimming with your child can be extremely valuable, especially if your child is not yet comfortable in the water or if they have any types of fears or anxieties about swimming. If you do not have a pool at home, there are many public pools around the city that you can use for the day. Or if you have a friend or neighbor with a pool, consider setting up a pool play date with a very small group. You can also make a lot of progress in the bathtub! Some important skills you can work on in the bath are: blowing bubbles. splashing with hands and feet, kicking, putting ears/nose/mouth underwater, putting face in the water, and more!
Patience is Key
Work through your child's fears, anxieties, or hesitations by talking with them about what scares them most and the skills that they find most challenging. You can find picture books that talk about swimming in a positive light. Or, you could create an incentive system with your child so they are rewarded when they take small steps towards their goals. The use of goggles can also be helpful -- try buying a pair for use at home to practice with in the bathtub — let us know if you need recommendations for our favorite age-appropriate goggles. If you don't have your own pool, you can practice all sorts of skills in the bathtub and have it be a fun way to remember what your child was learning during their lesson. Encourage them by telling them if they can do it in the bathtub they can do it in the swimming pool too!
New Habits are Necessary
Once your child has started swim lessons, do not allow them to continue to use arm floaties or a blow-up ring/tube. They need to get used to swimming without these devices in order to maximize their progress. While "floaties" may sound convenient for parents, floaties often give children a false sense of security in the water and allow them to think they can swim when in fact they are not yet water safe. Floaties also tend to instill incorrect body positions in the water, which makes it difficult when it's time to take the floatie off. Instead of floaties, consider getting your child a kickboard or a noodle to use in the pool while being directly supervised. These teaching aids can help with floatation but they are not attached to the child so the child still has to use his/her legs to kick as well as use their floating skills to stay balanced and on the surface of the water.
Parents Around the Pool
Some children become distracted and are not as willing to try new things if the parent is around the pool. When possible, during the lesson the parent(s) should remain "out of sight out of mind" so that the child can be fully focused on the swim instructor and the learning.
Positive Relationship with the Water
We want to allow every swimmer to develop their swim habits in a nurturing environment. Impromptu dunking or the "sink or swim" methodology is not recommended. It will not help the swimmer develop a positive view of water and swimming. Many swimmers have a fear of going underwater and this will be an important obstacle to overcome in the learn-to-swim process. Impromptu dunking can often scare the swimmer and make them even more hesitant in their lessons. Instead, the instructor may use toys , games, and sometimes goggles to help the swimmer feel comfortable putting their face in the water on their own terms. When practicing at home, use these same techniques. For a swimmer who is uncomfortable putting his/her entire face in the water, try starting by putting ears, nose, lips, or hair in the water, one at a time. This can be a helpful steppingstone towards getting comfortable with full submersion.
Whether you have a pool of your own or you frequent local public pools, the following tips are great reminders to keep your swimmer as safe as possible around the water:
Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
Instruct babysitters or caregivers about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.
If you have a pool at your home, completely fence the pool and install self-closing and self-latching gates.
Do not consider young child "drown proof" just because they have had swimming lessons.
Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
Remove your pool cover completely when using the pool as children may become entrapped under it.
Keep toys away from the pool area so that children are not tempted to play with them outside of the water and risk accidentally falling into the water.
Have a telephone poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a call elsewhere.
Learn the basics to CPR.
Remind your children of basic water safety tips.