You've Registered Your Child in Swimming Lessons - TOP TEN Things You Should Know and Do

by Pool Builders on 11-21-2008 in Articles

So, you have decided that it is time to enroll your child in a swimming program and you know what programs are age appropriate and available for your child. What else do you need to know to prepare yourself and your child?

1. Lots of "swimming" can be accomplished in the bathtub (especially with toddlers.) You can start even before they get to their first lesson!!

a. Practice blowing bubbles in the water. If your child doesn't want to put his mouth in the water then use a straw. Blowing out is something that children do when dealing with birthday candles and at the toddler age they often do not do it very well. Blowing bubbles (proper breathing) is a building block to proper swimming never mind keeping the water out of their nose and mouth.
b. Put a few inches of water in the tub and get them to lay on their tummy and their back (with ears under the water). This will be the position that they will use when learning to float.
c. DO NOT make a point of keeping water off their face when in the tub. Getting water on our eyes is no big deal. If you rush to get a cloth every time water is on your child's face you are teaching them that water on their face is a bad thing. You don't need to pour buckets of water on your child but do splash and do make fun games where some water will go on their face and soon they will see that it is not so bad.

2. There may be some crying at the first class. Remember, this is a new environment for your child. The pool itself may be unfamiliar; the teacher will be new as will most, if not all of the other students. Just know this; the crying is harder on you than it is on your child!! A good teacher will know how to calm and soothe your child in their introductory class. As hard as it is to sit back and not get involved, it is what is best for your child and the teacher. It is important that your child and the teacher start to build a trusting and caring relationship and the sooner that can start to take effect the better. The students also need to know that in the pool the teacher is in charge and that you support that.

3. There may be some crying in the second and third classes too J In my experience the tears continue more because they know what is going to take place in the class rather than the new environment and the new teacher. Your child will work through this phase with your love and support and the skill of the teacher. When a student realizes that doing the skill (i.e. a back float) is required of them crying or not, they will quickly realize that the crying is not worth the effort and that is when the fun will start.

4. DO NOT bring your first time swimmer to swimming lessons with goggles. All children MUST learn to be comfortable putting their face in the water and opening their eyes without goggles. Children who accidentally fall into the pool do not usually do so with goggles on their eyes. If your child relies on goggles and they aren't there in a crisis your child will most likely panic and only focus on not having goggles on rather than reacting with the lifesaving skills they should be taught. It is best to let your child's swimming teacher decide when would be an appropriate time for your child to begin wearing goggles.

5. Tubes in your child's ears and long hair can be a distraction. If your child has tubes in his or her ears consult with your physician as to whether or not to use ear plugs. Also ask if there are any other concerns with tubes and being in the water. If you can use ear plugs practice using them in the bath tub first so your child becomes accustomed to how they feel. If your child does not need to use plugs practice bath tub back floats so he gets accustomed to how it feels to have water over his ears.

If your daughter has long hair make sure that you do not get to swimming lessons without a good hair tie. Even better would be for your child to wear a swim cap. That will keep the hair out of her eyes and block the water a bit....a swim cap DOES NOT keep a child's hair dry J

6. Don't be your child's teacher. Parents often come to me and say "We went to the pool over the weekend and our child would not do for us any of the things she does for you." Let your child's teacher TEACH and you can spend time PLAYING. When you go to the pool let your child explore and play and have fun without a purpose. If they want to show you things that they have been working on in their lessons you can encourage it. If they don't want to...don't worry about it. Having fun in the pool but away from swimming lessons is a good thing. Rather than worrying about teaching you can concentrate on having fun too.

7. Swim in the "Off" season. So many families only start thinking about swimming lessons in the spring in the preparation for summer. Children are not going to learn to swim independently and safely in 8 or 10 swimming lessons. So, start your child in a program in September and have them swim consistently until May or June. You will have a very different summer experience with 9 months of lessons under your child's belt than just 1 or 2 months.

8. Be Consistent. Children learn by repetition. You do your child a disservice by enrolling them in a lesson set, letting them complete it and then not registering them for another class for a few months. Allow them the opportunity to succeed by being consistent.

9. Keep the same instructor. If you are pleased with your child's instructor do not be afraid to request that your child be placed in the same instructor's class in the next session you will register for. Your child will perform better and excel more quickly under the instruction of one person. I encourage you to be consistent with a good instructor.

10. Be VERY proud of your little swimmer. Make sure that you tell your child after each lesson how proud you are of them...even after one of those not-so-great days J Pick out one or two things that you saw them do really well and dwell on those things. Your praise will be the best reward that your child will receive.

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