How to get started with swim lessons
Swim lessons for kids aren’t one-size-fits-all.
When you enroll your child this summer, find swim lessons that are appropriate for your budget, your schedule and your child’s comfort level around the water.
Don’t put off enrolling your child in swim lessons this summer. The CDC reports that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years. Lessons aren’t a substitute for careful supervision and safety measures around water, but they’re a great foundation for drowning prevention. Learn how to find swim lessons that work for your family and your child.
Ask other parents
Word of mouth recommendations are a great resource. Try asking local friends for recommendations at school or on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to ask for negative opinions too, as long as you keep an open mind. One person’s bad experience shouldn’t disqualify an entire swim school. Look online for reviews when available. Keep your child’s age in mind. If a friend recommends a swim instructor that her school-aged child liked, that option might not be appropriate for your toddler. Once you have recommendations and you’ve done some research, visit a variety of options, such as your local YMCA and public pools.
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Consider private lessons
Amanda Bogle, recreation director for the city of Quincy, Washington, suggests looking into private lessons if your budget allows it. “A 30-minute lesson with six kids only leaves five minutes of one-on-one time per child,” Bogle says. With older kids who are already swimming well, group lessons make sense. For toddlers and preschoolers with no swimming skills, the one-on-one contact is more important. “Private lessons are more expensive,” Bogle says, “but the payoff can be huge.” If you have two children or a friend with a child around your child’s age, see if you can share private lessons.
Ask to meet swim instructors before you commit to lessons. While you should come prepared with questions of your own, you should also pay close attention to the questions the instructor asks you about your kids. “Can they blow bubbles? Are they comfortable on their backs? Are they willing to jump in from the edge? A good program will ask these types of questions if you need help placing your child,” Bogle says. If the instructor isn’t interested in listening to you when you introduce your child and your child’s swim experience, consider that a red flag. Even beginner classes aren't one-size-fits-all. Ask the instructor about additional costs, such as floatation devices, goggles and swim diapers.
Work with your child’s needs
Some kids are ready to dive right into swim lessons. Other kids may have a fear of water, separation anxiety or special needs that require extra attention. Find lessons with a schedule and structure that work best for your child. The time of day, length of classes and frequency of classes can make a huge difference in your child’s enjoyment and cooperation. If your child is clingy and nervous, you may be better off working with an instructor who prefers to keep parents in a separate room or area. Once lessons start, maintain communication with the instructor and let your child progress at his own pace.