When should your child to learn to swim? My daughter started at the age of two, but that is not to say it is the best age. It depends on you, your circumstances and your child. Do you go to places with water a lot? The American Association of Pediatrics says children can safely start to have swimming lessons as early as 12 months. In fact, according to some research it can reduce the risk of drowning. Of course, you still need to be vigilant, especially as your child grows in confidence. I love swimming and we were living in a city with a beach, so I was keen for my toddler to learn for personal reasons.
There are so many ways to learn. You can participate or not, choose an instructor that teaches in groups with a lifeguard present, or have a one on one instructor. Don’t worry about style- that is more for after they have learned the basics and are aged 4 plus.
The local pool:
I considered taking her to the local pool in Spain but when I heard the instructor put fingers down the littlies’ throats (to make them throw up the swimming pool water) I wasn’t keen(!) I asked a friend whose daughter went and she said she didn’t seem to like it. Not surprising as they also put the toddlers in face down, then waited for them to right themselves. Why? So they knew what to do if they fell in. They kept going, though, in the hope her daughter got accustomed to it; she has since learned more on holiday. At least she wasn’t put off!
First few lessons:
A few months later, found an instructor at our school swimming pool, got her the requisite goggles, swim socks and hat and she was good to go. She looked so cute! I wasn’t allowed to stay though. I did try lurking behind the glass but couldn’t see much. Over the few weeks of lessons she had, she learned to kick- both on her front and back. A good start, but by no means swimming independently…
Independence building lessons:
We then moved to Malaysia for a year and I rented a flat with a pool (quite standard in Penang). We had a great time playing in the shallow baby pool and she even had a go in the big pool with me, with her armbands on. Not long after the move, I was recommended an instructor who worked at my school. I booked 5 weeks of lessons and then another 5. Soon she got to jump into the pool with a noodle, swim using a board. By the end of it all she was able to swim unaided, was happy to jump into the big pool and could even swim to the bottom to retrieve things. Amazing! I can’t thank her instructor enough.
Play-time v swim-time:
I have to admit, she did not ‘do swimming’ the whole of her lesson. For Daisy, it was a lot about having fun too. So she used to take breaks and play with her pool toys- sometimes to the instructor’s mild frustration. That said, being at the pool is about enjoyment, and learning at your own pace is important too.
At home she still prefers to go to the splash pool and play, but if there is only a big pool, that will do. When we go on holiday now, she always asks ‘Does the Hotel have a swimming pool?’ We can easily spend the whole day there! We have been in the sea, but if there are lots of waves, we tend to do wave jumping rather than swimming…