What to look for in a swimming class for your child…
Memories of swimming classes can range from mild excitement and guarded anticipation to heart wrenching dread and downright terror (at least that’s what I remember). But it doesn’t have to be that way. Swimming can be great fun and an excellent form of exercise that boosts your child’s self-confidence and strengthens his or her growing body. But above all, swimming is a vital skill that will last a lifetime and is imperative for safety around the pool, lake, beach or water park.
When and how to start swimming lessons can be a challenge for parents who want to find the class that is best suited to their child’s temperament, needs and abilities. One of the best places to start is by defining your expectations and then doing your homework about the process, the methods and results of specific programs you are considering. If you need help with putting together a short-list of potential classes, check with your child’s doctor, preschool teacher or other parents.
What to Ask Before making a decision about where and how your child will learn to swim, here are some basic questions that will help you determine which class if right for them.
1. Are the instructors experienced in teaching children?
2. What are the age groups and skill levels of the classes?
3. Is there a clear list of goals to be attained in each session?
4. Are parents involved in the lessons?
5. What is the length of each lesson and the number of days/weeks in a session?
6. What is the child to instructor ratio in the classes?
7. What special safety training are instructors required to have?
8. Are there provisions for make-up classes if a child misses a lesson?
Swim lessons should be fun and enjoyable as well as setting firm safety rules and guidelines for a healthy balance. Your child’s swim instructor should be likable, trustworthy and knowledgeable. A swim instructor for kids should not only have experience teaching kids but also hold safety certifications in CPR and first aid.
Well-Being spoke to Tyler Godwin, Director of the Healthplex Performance Center’s Aquatics program about how he structures swimming classes for children with clear goals and expectations for each skill level.
“At the Healthplex, we have classes designed for four age/skill levels: Tots, for kids 2 and 3 years old; Beginners, for ages 3 – 6; Advanced Beginners, for ages 7 and up; and Junior Swimmers, for kids who have mastered all of the goals of advanced beginners and are ready to move on to more advanced instruction,” Godwin explains. “We also offer private lessons and classes for children with special needs. At each class and skill level, we have a defined set of goals that are provided to parents before classes begin. That way everyone knows what to expect and parents can help reinforce what their children are taught in class.”
According to Godwin, the Tots class gives younger children a chance to get comfortable in the water, and learn basics such as balance and body position, back floats and beginning swimming on the front. For these classes, a parent or guardian must accompany the child in the water.
“We have designed our program so that with each progressive skill level, kids build on what they have learned and are given the chance to develop more advanced skills and techniques,” continues Godwin. “By the time they have completed our Junior Swimmers class they are prepared to join our swim team if they are interested. Our classes provide a consistency and a continuum of training from toddlers to skilled competitive swimmers.”
For parents looking for a swimming program for their children, Godwin recommends they look for a class that has clear objectives for what is to be accomplished, as well as safety guidelines for time in and around the pool. Classes should have no more than 4 – 5 children per instructor.
“You want to find a class that will teach your child that being in the water can be fun, but it also is a serious place and can be dangerous unless safety rules are followed,” Godwin added. “It’s all about balance. Swimming is a skill that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Getting your child off to a great start in the right class can make all the difference.”
Water Safety at Home
Don’t Leave Kids Alone in or Around Water • Never leave your child unattended around water. We know it sounds strict, but there is no room for compromise on this one. Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water. • Put the cell phone away, forget about all the other things you have to do and give young children 100 percent of your attention when they are near or around water. • When using inflatable or portable pools, remember to empty them immediately after use. Store them upside down and out of children’s reach. These types of pools can pose a drowning risk.
Remove Water From Tubs and Buckets After Use • Once bath time is over, immediately drain the tub. • Empty all tubs, buckets, and containers immediately after use.
Close Lids and Doors • Keep toilet lids closed and use toilet seat locks to prevent drowning. • Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed.
Learn CPR • Parents have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better.
Tyler Godwin began swimming at age five for the Delta Aquatic Club, he was an individual state champion, high school state champion and state record-holder. He competed at the college level for Delta State University where he was All-American and Team Captain. Throughout his career as a swim instructor he has had the opportunity to teach every skill level from beginners to kids that made the Olympic trials.