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Swimming Lessons for Pre-School Age Children

Updated on July 4, 2017
JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

As a swimming teacher for almost 35 years, I share my theory and experience to help young people learn to love the water.

When Should You Begin Swim Lessons For Your Child?

This is a decades old question that many first-time parents of children under the age of five years old face every summer - whether or not to enroll their youngster in swim lessons, at a private or public entity.

With over 40 years of teaching swim lessons experience behind me, I have the answer for you!

Toddler fun in a small pool
Toddler fun in a small pool

Helping Your Child Learn to Love the Water

Toddlers in Baby Pools

Children ages 1-5 need to play in water. As we all know, playing in any depth of water can be dangerous - from one inch to one foot deep. Parents who have pools in their backyards are especially concerned about lessons for young children. While a few new methods have sprung up over the last decade, I am of the old-fashioned style and opinion. For an infant, purchase a plastic pool, fill with a couple of inches of water, toss in a few toys and let them splash away! For a toddler or pre-schooler, take them to the public pool and let them play and have fun in the pool under your supervision. This is especially beneficial if your local pool has a shallow end with zero gradient that increases to 18 inches deep. Many public pools have specific play areas for toddlers and young children and this, in my opinion, is the best place for them to start learning about water, the effects it has when they fall in it, the bouyancy their body has in it, and the feel of it on their little bodies. My favorite way to learn---by having fun.

There are exceptions to young children learning how to swim, but from my experience, only a handful of students have actually swam correctly at 3 years old. That number would swell to a few dozen at 4 years old and at 5 years old, their little bodies are finally ready to physically be able to do the required movements simultaneously one needs to do in order to swim through the water. Ideally, I think a six-year old is at the prime age, but again, there are exceptions.

This is a choice you have to make as a parent. There is nothing wrong with "lessons" for younger children, just keep your expectations at the correct level. If your child becomes more confident or comfortable in the water, then it was worth it! Almost always, the child builds on the experience in the lessons and blossoms with practice or fun in the water afterwards. This would be the result of a good swimming lesson.

Get A Lesson!

A recent study by the USA Swim Foundation says swimming ability for children has improved by 5-10%. Be a part of this movement! Find, Get, Give a Swim Lesson. (This was recently Tweeted by Olympic champion Katie Meili.)

Choosing Between Private or Group Swim Lessons

Basic Guidelines

Consider these major factors when deciding what type of lessons your child should take.

  1. Private Lessons - These will cost the most but you get one-on-one time with the teacher. However, I believe that good peer pressure is created in a class-like setting urging other students to watch and see if they can "do it" also.
  2. Class Setting - I have no more than 8 children in a class, with a teacher and an aide. This enables one of us to always have eyes on the children. Usually I teach the skill using the aide as the example, then the aide watches the others while I work with each individual student. That is the biggest number of students I take in a class. I prefer 5-6 for better attention. As mentioned above, I believe good peer pressure is created and that is an advantage to class lessons.
  3. Length of Class - It is traditional to teach a two-week class for 30 minutes, 10 days. One year this was not convenient for me and I taught a one-week class for an hour a day. I never returned to the traditional schedule again. I found that lengthening the class time gave the students a longer period to perfect the skills for that day and the next day, we reviewed what we learned and moved forward. It was very interesting to me that the one-week method had the children "peaking out" at the exact same time as would have happened in a two-week lesson but I felt the skill level was higher and more refined.
  4. Parents Need To Leave the Premises - Please ask your parents to wait in the front yard or leave the premises while lessons are going on. If they stay, all that does is create the need for the child to act out or always ask the parent to "watch me!". On the last day of lessons, I invite all parents to watch the class so they can see their child's progress, and hear the words I am saying for the skills so they can continue instructing the lessons for the summer.

Dive toys all lined up and ready to go!
Dive toys all lined up and ready to go!

MAY is....

...National Water Safety Month.

Review the rules and get ready for the summer swim time!

Teaching Adults to Swim

Get rid of the fear

One of the hardest but most fulfilling lessons I have taught involve adults who never learned to swim but wanted to try to learn. These lessons were not of the physical type but of the psychological type. It had been embedded in their heads that water equals fear. The adults physicality was not in question, it was a fear mostly of deep water, that we had to battle.

Much of the time this fear was grown along with the person as a child, teen, young adult and then adult - one who had never learned to swim. Overcoming this fear, with the right instructor, will lead to a confident adult who is quite proud of moving toward the accomplishment of learning to swim.

One of the main reasons adults choose to overcome this fear is so they can help their child gain confidence in the water so they can be able to help their children in a water emergency. As parents we spend our lives making choices for our children and teaching them to make good choices. Please learn to be comfortable in the water now!

Premium Pool Safety Ring Life Preserver
Premium Pool Safety Ring Life Preserver

We have this hanging within a few feet of the pool to be available at all times. It is also used to practice water safety.

 

Pool Safety

Think Logically

Pool safety should be your #1 concern for any pool you visit, but this is about your backyard pool specificially. There are several rules we employ at our home pool.

**First and most important is NEVER SWIM ALONE. Not if you're the parent, the young adult, teens home alone, no one should ever swim alone for who will help you if you have an emergency?

**Second, you should have your pool area fenced separately from the fence surrounding your yard. This is especially true if you have toddlers or youngsters playing in the back yard a lot.

**Third, have a set of rules for your pool that guests should abide by; ours are: no running, no dunking, no pushing in, and no diving in the shallow end.

**Fourth, have pool safety equipment in your pool area like a lifesaving ring, an extension pole and other devices that float.

**Last, unless you have been trained in water safety then you should not attempt a water rescue. Call 911 in an emergency.

Swimming Safety Rhymes/Mantras

Teach your children these rhymes or mantras to help them remember how to help someone needing aid in a swimming environment.

SUMMER FUN, WATER FUN,

IF TROUBLE COMES CALL 911

REACH AND THROW

DON'T GO!

My Recommendation

In summary, I highly recommend these friendly approaches for those children who are afraid (or deathly afraid!) of the water. Playing with mom or dad in a few inches of water can go a long way towards organized swim lessons when the fear subsides. There is a flip side to that: the older a child gets and keeps his fear, the harder it will be to get rid of it. So, don't delay, get out there and play with your youngster to build a love of water and enjoy the summer!

Fact:

Did you know that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 14 and younger?

Take A Poll on Your Swimming "Hole" Preference

NRH2O
NRH2O

Shown in the picture is NRH2O a water park in North Richland Hills, Texas, a suburb of Ft. Worth. NRH20 was ranked the #7 waterpark in the USA by TripAdvisor users and NRH2O was ranked the #2 public waterpark by "Waterparks + Resorts Today". This park has a unique name and is a very fun place to spend a summer day!

Where Do You Prefer to Swim?

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Post Your Home Pool Rules Here - Or Just Let Me Know What you Think!

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    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 2 years ago from Keller, Texas

      You are a smart lady! It's amazing how many people do not have pool rules. Thanks for your support!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Good tips for water safety. Whenever I had young children visiting my son and using the pool, I always told them "The Rules of the Pool" which included wearing a flotation vest for the youngest. If the rules were broken, no more pool that day.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 4 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @DianaHarper LM: That's a good one Diana. Even if someone is offended by your request, you are keeping a safe pool environment and it shows you care about your guests.

    • DianaHarper LM profile image

      DianaHarper LM 4 years ago

      Visitors must be able to swim back and forth across the shallow end in order to go to the deep end.

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great information. Kids love to swim so they need to learn how to do it right too.

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 5 years ago

      Great lens. Babies are more comfortable in water than older kids.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Great information! Thanks for sharing!