For children: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not begin formal swimming lessons until after their fourth birthday. Before then, children don't have the developmental or coordination skills needed to learn.
You can get your younger child comfortable in water by holding her in the pool and singing songs and splashing, playing with toys in the water, teaching her not to run at the pool and helping her be comfortable putting her face in the water.
What lessons should include:
According to the AAP, all aquatics programs for children under four years of age should include:
- Information on the cognitive and motor limitations of infants and toddlers.
- Explanation of the risks of water.
- Strategies for prevention of drowning.
- The role of adults in supervising and monitoring children in and around water.
Older children and adults are grouped according to age, development level and individual ability. Working in a small group with a certified instructor, beginners learn basic techniques such as water safety, breathing, arm and leg movements and various swimming strokes as they get more experienced.
Good swimming classes stress water safety as much as skill, and teach the students that they must practice to get comfortable and become good swimmers.
Choosing a class
How do you find a class that is right for you? Ask a doctor, other parents or former students for suggestions. Observe the class before signing up, and speak with the program supervisor and instructor beforehand.
Other points to keep in mind include:
- Class placement: What skills are used to determine placement? Will you and/or your child be with others his age and skill set?
- Size: How many people are in one teaching group? For kids, the rule of thumb is one instructor for every six preschoolers or eight grade schoolers. The staff-student ratio should be small enough that each student gets individual instruction and attention.
- Instructor credentials: How are the teachers trained and what certifications do they hold? Do they know CPR? A certified lifeguard also should be on duty at all times.
- Schedule: Does the swim class take place after another activity? Will you be tired by the time you get to class? Find a class that is convenient to your schedule
No matter how much research you do, be assured that you’ll learn a new skill you can practice. And be secure knowing you are sharing this valuable skill with your child.