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Maximizing the Return on Your Child's Swim Class
Summer time equals pool time. Or, just perhaps, does it not?
I have seen natural born swimmers and kids who love spending time in the water. It is their absolute idea of a fun time and their parents literally have to peel them away from the pool when it is time to go home. Their hands and feet are 'pruned', they have raccoon eyes from the goggles pressing into their face, their skin is slightly pink from the sun. They are happy. They are exhausted.
However, I was blessed with three children who are not crazy about the water. At least not from the start. They already have too many requirements before even getting their toes wet. How long are we going to stay? Is the water warm enough? Did you bring my favorite goggles? I am hungry. I am cold. Can we go home now?
Swimming Skills are Life Skills
Learning how to swim is not a choice in our house. It is an absolute must. We all know about the need for water safety. Every year too many accidents happen which result in drowning.
I believe that at the earliest stages there is a definite need to learn to respect the water. I still have visions of my kids cutting corners as they ran (er, I should say, walked) around the pool, underestimating what would happen if they lost their footing. Or enjoying the splash they made as they jumped into my arms, even if I was not entirely ready to catch them.
I don't expect my kids to become competitive swimmers. I do however expect them to have swimming skills which will allow them to swim independently and competently. My goal is that they can, at a minimum, swim freestyle for about 25 yards without stopping and tread water for 30 seconds. These are the same requirements our local pool has before releasing the kids into the deepest water.
Finding the Perfect Set-up to Learn How to Swim
I feel timing, for those kids who are slower to warm up to swimming, is everything. Just because everyone else seems to be rushing off to swim class as soon as their babies turn 6 months old does not mean that your child fits the mold. Lesson learned with one of my kids who was diagnosed with a sensory integration issue many years later and disliked getting wet. His kicking and screaming when we so much as approached the swim school should have been my clue to wait.
My husband still likes to call our local swim school a money making factory. Many families believe in their philosophy and have tremendous success, but for us, it was a money pit. Not only did we start when our first two kids were too young, but having class just once a week equated to making very little progress. Again, I should have waited and when the time was right, looked for a program that met more than once weekly.
Aside from timing and frequency, the other key factor in ensuring success with swim class is to find an instructor who connects well with your child. This seems like an obvious stepping stone, but all too often our schedule and instructor availabilities got in the way of finding the perfect match.
Part of the equation is also to know when to take a break. All too often I get pulled into activities and continue purely because I don't want to break the commitment. First and foremost, your child needs to be developmentally ready and making changes is not only acceptable, but necessary. Keeping with something that does not work will end up causing more damage than good.
Our Personal Success Stories
What works well for one person does not necessarily work for all. When it comes to swimming, it is important to regulate your expectations so that you can ensure success on an individual basis. The turning point for each one of our kids definitely came at different times and through different approaches. Here are their stories:
- Child 1: For someone who used to think that anything but hot tubs were too cold for swimming, I was surprised to see him jump into an ice cold olympic size pool and love every minute of his class. For him, the turning point was most definitely the instructor: a young male college student who swam and played water polo in high school. Other key factors were his age, now almost 9 years old. And repetition: he swam 4 days per week for 4 weeks and is now a competent swimmer.
- Child 2: For someone who is athletically fit enough at the age of 6 to keep up with older kids yet is young at heart, I assumed he would thrive in the pool as long as his brother was with him. Instead, he felt too comfortable with the set-up and chose to goof off. After I switched him to another group class while the rest of us are watching, he began swimming beautifully. Twice a week is sufficient for him. The turning point? As the middle child, I think he likes to be the center of attention once in a while.
- Child 3: For someone who loves water play and is perfectly content to be in the water with me, I was surprised to see the tantrums he threw when it was time for swim class. Just over 3 years old, he ended up being too disruptive after 2 full weeks in a group class which met 4 times per week. I signed him up for private instruction twice a week, hoping that one-on-one time with the teacher will put him more at ease.