Is My Child Old Enough for Swim Lessons?
- March 28, 2015
- by Melissa Lawrence
After a brutal winter, I’m happy to see the skies warming up and to think of some activities for my kids that don’t involve snow. So I was thrilled when Kaitlin Gardner of An Apple Per Day offered to post for us about her experience introducing her children to swimming. For some great tips on getting babies interested in the water and kids started swimming, read on. And for more on Kaitlin and her website, see below!
When Can My Baby Swim?
A swimming pool has always been on the wish list for my family. I wanted my children to have as much fun in the pool as I did when I was young, so I started thinking about swimming lessons even when my boys were very young. I didn’t want to start late, so I did a lot of research about how to introduce the kids to the water and have them safely splashing their summer nights away in our backyard!
Before Lessons – While formal lessons would have to wait a few years, I began to orient my boys to the water as soon as possible, taking advantage of something all parents and babies have to do anyway – bath time! I wanted my boys to see the water as a good thing, so I used positive reinforcement. I made sure I was always laughing and smiling as I bathed them. I would trickle a little water over their foreheads, letting them see how pleasant the water felt. I brought some colorful waterproof toys in the tub for extra play, which often meant mama would get soaked herself! I can still vividly remember my husband laughing out loud when I came out of the bathroom with suds all over me, knowing we had just learned the joy of splashing. My older son really loved it, but my younger son was a little shyer about the whole water thing.
Mommy and Me – Experts say that when a child is around six months old, he is ready for “Mommy and Me” swim lessons, but whether your child will adapt to one of these classes ultimately will depend on his development plus how comfortable he is around the water. The noise of happy babies splashing and being talked to by Moms was fun for my older son, and he joined right in. While he wasn’t technically learning to swim, it let him experience being in the water, and learn some beginning moves like ducking his face underwater, under the supervision of an instructor, of course! I would highly recommend these classes for new moms – it’s such a supportive environment and a great way to meet new friends with children of the same age!
When should my child start lessons? – Experts also say that young children are ready for formal swim lessons when they are around four years of age. By that point, they will have developed enough to perform basic swimming motions and can retain a bit more information presented and learn some basic water safety tips. By age six, they will really be learning the different swim strokes and understanding the importance of swimming safety. And as a parent, nothing is more important to us than safety! Here are some resources with more great information on swimming lessons for kids:
- Swim Lesson Plans
- How To Teach A Petrified Kid Not To Be Afraid Of Water
- When Can My Baby Take Swimming Lessons?
What if they are hesitant? Remember that all kids are different when it comes to development and their enjoyment of swimming, but don’t rush them! My younger son was a lot more reticent during bath time and I thought all the stimulation of a Mommy and Me class would be too much for him. The key word for this son was patience. My husband would sit by the side of the pool, allowing my baby to see me as I went in the water, laughing and splashing. We did this several times while he just watched everything around him. Finally the big moment came when he reached out to me as I got in the water, and my husband handed him over. I just held him gently against my chest, letting him look around, and gradually dipping just his toes in the water. He decided the water was acceptable, and quickly learned to enjoy it. Success!!
Our story – We began formal lessons when my children were around four years old as is recommended and the instructor at the swim school gave them a check to make sure they were indeed ready – this is one of those great things to look for in a swim class! I had learned that not all swim schools were the same, and did some thorough research to make sure we found the best one for our sons. I checked the credentials of the instructor and watched some classes, so I was confident when it was time to enroll them. We plan to keep going to intermediate and advanced lessons, because this is a skill that my boys will use for a lifetime, so I want them to learn it well!
My boys have both turned into proficient swimmers, and I just have to smile as I watch them. Who knows, we might just be raising the next Michael Phelps! (A mama can always dream, right??)
Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.