Learning how to swim is an essential life skill, especially in South Florida. As you prepare to enroll your child in a swimming program, you’ll want to be sure that you’re making the best decision for your child.
When to start
One of the most common questions parents have about swimming lessons is “When should my child start?” Generally, the earlier a child begins swim lessons, the better.
Babies as young as 6 months can begin swimming lessons while accompanied by a parent or caretaker in the water. These classes help parents and caregivers feel more comfortable with their babies in the water as they learn new safety skills that can be practiced at home.
The National Institute of Health study from March 2009 stated that “Providing very young children with swimming lessons appears to have a protective effect against drowning and does not increase children’s risk of drowning.” This refuted an earlier statement they had made. Recent case study says lessons may reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88%.
Participation in formal, consistent swimming lessons is key in learning to swim. Whether your child is starting lessons at 6 months, 30 months or 4 years, it is important to stick to a high quality program on a year round basis. Water safety, swimming skill retention and confidence around the water is highest for children who participate in year round swimming lessons. But please remember that even children who are strong swimmers need constant adult supervision whenever they are in or around the water.
The goal of a successful swimming program is to equip students with the necessary skills to be as safe as possible around water. Swimming instruction should focus on building and reinforcing safety skills before moving on to stroke development. In addition, proper behaviour around the water should be an important part of any water safety program.
To achieve the best learning outcomes, swim lessons should generally be no longer than 30 minutes and should be typically held once or twice per week on a long term basis. These lessons provide enough time for students to reinforce and develop skills while not exhausting their attention span. 30 minute lessons also make it easier for parents to fit swimming into a regular schedule without feeling overwhelmed by time constraints.
When evaluating swimming lessons, you should also consider the student/teacher ratio. A small student/teacher ratio will not only ensure that your child is getting the attention and direction they need, but also provide an extra level of safety. Generally, there should be no more than 6 students per teacher at any given time. There should also be additional adult supervisors around the pool to support instructors in the event of an emergency.
What to look for in an instructor
Look for a reputable organization that has vigorously vetted their instructors. If you have any doubts, you can always ask the school what certifications and training they require. You can also inquire as to what background screenings have been done.
Aside from having the appropriate certifications, instructors should also be professional, welcoming, positive and enthusiastic. Your child will be more willing and excited to learn if they trust and feel comfortable with their instructor.
As you work towards making a decision, be sure to discuss any concerns you have—especially if your child has expressed any fears or concerns about swimming.
Try an evaluation
Visiting a swim school during operation or requesting an evaluation is a great way to get a feel for the culture and learning environment before committing. As you explore, keep in mind that a positive learning environment will be more encouraging for young swimmers. Indoor, warm water pools are more inviting than a cold health club or swim team pool, especially for new swimmers or parents who will be getting in with their children.
At Ocaquatics, we believe learning something new at any age should be an enjoyable undertaking. Learn more about our approach to water safety and teaching children to swim.