Signing your child up for swim classes is beneficial in many ways. Research shows swim lessons help children develop better balance and stronger movement. Plus, formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning in young children by 88 percent.
If you just signed up your child for swim lessons or are still shopping around, there are probably a million questions running through your mind. Linda DeSanders, director of the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance, has a few helpful tips for parents interested in swim lessons.
It Starts with Bath Time
Many parents shield their child's face from water during bath time. But a big part of swimming lessons is getting a child comfortable with water. DeSanders suggests pouring clear, not soapy, water over your child's face in the bath. They will slowly get used to water getting into their ears and face, which will help during swim lessons.
Learn to Float
Learning to trust the water may be difficult for both the child and the parent, but the ability to lie on his or her back and float is instrumental for young swimmers. It may be scary, but DeSanders suggests putting your baby on his or her back at bath time. This position will help the baby get used to water being around their face. Many children don't get used to being in this position and have trouble trusting the water. Practicing this at home will help your child stay calm and trust the water.
Start Them Young
Children can begin taking swim lessons as young as 3 months old. DeSanders suggests starting children early because it helps them skip the fear stage many children experience with water. She says that between the ages of 2 to 4, many children, if they haven't taken swim lessons regularly, experience fear of the water. Beginning lessons at a young age will help your child skip this stage because they will understand water safety and associate being in the water as a fun experience.
Children most likely won't be able to take solo lessons until they are 5 years old. Classes for kids younger than this require parents to join in, which gives your child the opportunity to be in the water with someone they trust.
Make Sure the Pool Has the Right Temperature
Both the temperature of the pool and air outside are important for swim lessons. DeSanders says kids can't learn when the water is too cold, and they shiver. In general, a pool should be between 84 and 88 degrees, but DeSanders likes to keep her pools on the warmer side, closer to 90.
While they may seem like a good idea, DeSanders says floats—or as many call them, floaties—give a false sense of confidence in the water. Many children get used to deeper water despite not being able to swim because of floats. Plus, they make your child swim upright, which is a drowning position. Instead, children need to learn to swim parallel to the water. It's much better and safer for you to swim in the water with your child, keeping them at arms length. This way, way they get used to swimming correctly.
Not All Swim Classes Are Alike
Doing research for what swim class works best for you and your child is crucial. While it is important for your child to have fun, making sure the class has safety included in the lesson plan is important. DeSanders says look for classes that do drills like swimming without goggles. Kids get used to having goggles during swim lessons, but in emergency situations, it is less likely your child will be wearing a pair. Getting your child used to real-life situations is important and will help their swim skills transfer from the lesson to their daily lives.