The weather is heating up, and days spent by the pool or at the beach are upon us. For most of us, this means fun in the sun, splashing around in the water without a care. But, for parents whose children have little-to-no experience swimming on their own, it means high stress levels, constant worry and way too much time spent blowing up floaties and navigating the buckles and straps of life jackets.
Learning to swim is kind of a non-negotiable here in Queensland. We live in a country girt by sea, and swimming – like maths, and spelling, and telling the time – is something our kids need to be competent in, both for their own survival and their own enjoyment.
What age should my child start lessons?
While there is no ‘right’ age for your child to start swimming lessons they should really be doing one lesson a week by the age of three. While babies can get a lot of enjoyment and familiarity out of swimming lessons, they don’t tend to retain skills or information until they are a bit older so don’t stress if your under-two hasn’t had a swimming lesson yet.
What should I expect at the first few lessons?
The first few lessons should be about familiarisation and confidence building for your child – they need to realise that it’s fun being in the water and that their swimming instructor is someone they can trust. This can take a bit of time, so don’t be annoyed or upset if your child doesn’t learn to kick or float right away. Let them get used to the structure and expectations that are on them – remember, this might be the first time they have been in a ‘lesson’ environment – and encourage them when they listen well or try something new.
What should I do if my child struggles to pick up swimming?
Talk to your swimming instructor – they see dozens of children learning to swim every day and can offer expert advice if you are concerned or confused about how your child is progressing. If you have an issue, ask your child’s teacher if there is anything they’ve seen work for other children – whatever your child is struggling with is probably a lot more common than you think.
What can I be doing at home?
Take note of the activities your child undertakes in their lessons and try them in your own time – investing in a kickboard, a pool noodle and some toys to use when you are in the pool with your child will help them build on what they learn in their lessons, and also give them a bit of extra confidence when they are next with their teacher.
Similarly, letting your child choose their own goggles and having them wear them in the shower and the bath can help to minimise equipment-related dramas come swimming lesson time. And, if they are hesitant to hop into the pool – or have to be dragged in kicking and screaming – buying them special ‘swimming only’ toys that they have picked out themselves can help make lessons a bit more appealing.
Swimming lessons can be a walk in the park for some kids, and an emotional rollercoaster for others (and their parents). Ensure you have a good relationship with your child’s swimming teacher, try your best to be patient and encourage any progress they make – even if it’s as simple as hopping into the pool without a fuss.
With swimming, like any other life skill, it’s a case of practice makes perfect – whether it’s during swimming lessons, in your backyard or in the hotel pool when you’re on holiday, ensure your child is having as many positive experiences in the water as possible. You’ll be soaking up the sun while they swim about happily in no time.