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No High Quality Swimming Lessons Near You?

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

High quality swimming lessons are one of the most important investments you can make for your children. Not only do they provide an important layer of protection to prevent your child from drowning, but they also help instill a respect for the water and a foundation for a lifetime of swimming ability.

These lessons should be the first step in swimming lessons, prior to learning stroke technique There are many programs in the United States, as well as private instructors, who specialize in these lessons, including but not limited to the Survival Swim Development Network, Infant Swimming Resource (ISR), Infant Aquatics, are examples of these high quality lessons. {side note: just because "infant" is in the title of the name does not mean they only teach infants. These lessons should be your first step in swimming, regardless of the child's age}

Unfortunately, there are many parts of the country who still do not have access to high quality swimming lessons. We have received several emails from parents concerned about what to do in this situation.

Here are a few tips:

First of all, do your research. Take this attached information sheet with you to meet with swim instructors and ask if they teach these skills. In many circumstances, we believe that any type of swim lesson is better than nothing. {This excludes water acclimation and parent-child lessons whose sole focus is making your child have fun in the water. Being comfortable in the water, prior to any skills for self-rescue, is dangerous. Water is NOT a playground}. The MOST important skill your child needs is to learn to float independently.

Private lessons are highly recommended so your child gets 1:1 attention and their lesson is tailored to their personal needs. In group lessons, the larger the group the harder to manage (safety, skill levels, silliness). If in group lessons, make sure your instructor never turns their back on their students. Check your instructors credentials: what program are they certified, do they have CPR and First Aid training, how are they trained, how many years experience do they have?

Let’s break it down by age.

Newborn to 1 year:

  • Introduce water from birth. When bathing your infant, allow water to drip on their face. This will help them learn to close their mouth and hold their breath. This will also help with swim lessons in the future to prevent your child from having an aversion to being underwater. Gently poor small amounts of plain warm water over their head and face. Give them a warning to prepare them that the water is coming: a simple “1, 2, 3” will do.

  • Do not encourage play and splashing in the water. Yes, this is a hard one. When people see water, their first instinct is to go to it and splash the water to show their children how magical it is. We want them to see the water as fun because we see the water as fun. However, water should not be introduced as fun until they are safe. Encouraging them to believe the water is a fun and safe place can lead them to find water alone.

  • When in the pool with your infant, you can use a float that keeps them floating horizontally in the water. Avoid the floats that put them in an upright position. This is a position we want them to avoid being associated with in the water. Horizontal= good / vertical=bad. Otherwise, just hold them in the pool with both hands about chest deep.

Children 1-5:

  • When in the pool with your young children who cannot swim, ALWAYS be in the water with them. We know this sounds ridiculous and impossible. Somehow, our culture has trained parents to see water as a playground and a swimming pool visit as a time a parent can relax by the side of the pool, chatting with parents. We know it is easier to just slap a puddle jumper on your child and let them enjoy the water. But, water is more deadly than parking lots, and we need to start treating it as such. Do not let them think they can “swim” independently in the water. Hold them. Teach them what happens if they are not being held. It is still fun, and you are bonding with your child, but you are showing them they are only allowed to be in the pool with an adult.

  • Do not encourage non-swimmers to jump into the pool to you. If they do not know how to save themselves, this should be off limits. There will be no magic hands catching them if they jump in the pool unnoticed.

  • Encourage them to take a deep breath before going under water. Do not teach them to “blow bubbles” (and avoid ALL swim lessons which do). Blowing the air out of their lungs will make them less buoyant. It is much easier for the child to float with lungs full of air.

  • Focus on Survival. Teaching your child how to float, and how to get to a float by themselves, is the most important skill you can do to save their life in the event of an accident. Work with your child and allow them to discover their own buoyancy. Keep their head in the water, ears under underwater and chin slightly tilted up. Encourage them to pull their belly button to the sky. It helps to stand behind them with their head in front of you, that way you have control over their head position and they can see you to remain calm.

  • Teach them then to find the exit of the pool. Show them where the steps or ladder are and teach them how to use them to get out of the water. Teach them how to get out from the side of the pool as well. Having them place both elbows on the edge of the pool then using their arms to pull up to their tummy. Then, bring each leg up one after the other until they are out. “Elbow elbow, tummy, knee.”

  • VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT use flotation devices that keep your child in a vertical position in the pool when swimming for recreation. Save your life jackets, puddle jumpers and other personal flotation devices for swimming and boating in natural bodies of water. Using flotation devices in the pool can give your child a false sense of confidence while in the water. It can also prevent them from acquiring the ability to float on their own. They do not have the cognitive ability to understand that they need the flotation device to stay afloat in the water.

  • If you have more than one child who cannot swim and do not have extra hands, maybe swimming in a pool isn’t the best idea for you that day. Get out a baby pool, set up the sprinklers, or go to a splash pad to cool off instead.

School aged children:

  • Teach them the Rules. For older children, most likely around school aged, they are able to understand rules. Teach them to never swim alone, to always swim in designated areas, do not run around the pool and always enter the water feet first. Most traditional swimming lessons will encourage and enforce these rules.

  • Find a swim program that focuses on water competencies.

  1. Step or jump into the water over your head.

  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.

  3. Turn around in a full circle and find an exit.

  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit.

  5. Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.

( *Please keep in mind these lessons are recommended for children ages 5 and older, not for infants and toddlers.

Finally, encourage your local swim school to provide these lessons. Let’s rise up and ask, explain, educate. Hopefully, the supply will meet the demand. The programs listed above train people across the country to become self-rescue swim lesson instructors. You could always train to be an instructor yourself and provide your community with this need!

Do not keep your child from the water. Children will find water, there is no way to keep them from it 100%. You need to introduce them to it with a healthy respect. Swimming should be a fun part of a happy and healthy childhood. These steps will help ensure that your child has the chance to learn to swim and to respect water.

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