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Teach Your Own Child To Swim—Or Let A Swim Teacher Do It?

Posted by Melissa Byers

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Jul 9, 2013
The following is a post from Becky Flanigan. Becky writes for PoolCenter.com and is married with 3 kids and 2 golden retrievers. So she knows a thing or two about kids and swimming! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Parents of young children will have to address the issue of their child learning how to swim. The question then becomes – who can do a better job of teaching the child to swim – the parent, or a swim instructor? A parent can do a lot to prepare their child for the water. On the other hand, a swim instructor can teach swimming strokes and advanced lessons more thoroughly.

No Swimming

So which way is best – the parent teacher, or swim instructor lessons?

Why not do both? Have the parent start the process, and then finish with swim lessons.

Preparing the toddler. According to Parents.com, a parent can do a lot for a child to get them more comfortable with the water. It is recommended that formal lessons not begin until age 4 – when a child has physically developed enough to stay afloat. Up to that age, a parent can spend time allowing the child to get used to being in the water. While holding the child at all times, the parent can let a baby splash in the water, bob around, and play gentle games in the water. Aside from bonding time, the child begins to develop a positive attitude about water.

When the child is a bit older. By age 2 to 3 years, the child may be more active and curious in the water – but will still need to be held at all times. The parent can allow the child reach for a ball, kick his legs and begin learning to float. As the child learns to blow bubbles in the water, he’s learning to get his face wet without ingesting water. Pool safety can be addressed – emphasizing not running at the pool, and only going into the water with the parent.

It’s time for lessons. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, they should have developed the coordination needed to swim by themselves. They should be able to float independently, submerge their head under water for several seconds, and go from a standing to swimming position without help. As well, research for PoolCenter.com revealed that children should be able to glide through the water, and begin to use coordinated movements with their arms and legs.

The advantages of lessons. Bonding with your child while teaching them water skills can be fun, but there are some significant reasons to sign up for swim lessons. As described by 247moms, there are a number of benefits of swim lessons:

  • Proper techniques taught by experienced instructors. While a parent may be limited in their knowledge of proper swim techniques, an instructor who has been certified knows the proper swimming strokes and how to teach them.
  • Reducing the fear of water. Lessons can help the child develop skills which will reduce their fear of water. A child who has to sit by the side of the pool while others swim is only adding to fears they might have about the water. With a solid knowledge of swimming strokes, that fear is reduced.
  • Building confidence. An experienced instructor who is committed to the success of their students can greatly increase a child’s self confidence, by helping them master swimming skills, and by honoring each success.
  • Promoting physical activity. By developing swim skills, swim lessons encourage a child into a more active  lifestyle than sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Especially if those lessons are taught in a group, they model how fun water activities can be, and encourage social development.
  • Reduced chances of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research which suggests that kids who had formal swim training had lower chances of drowning.

Especially during the baby and toddler years, there are many things a parent can do to promote their child’s enjoyment of the water. Once that child has reached 4 to 5 years of age, swim lessons with an experienced instructor build a child’s abilities and confidence, preparing them for a lifetime of safe enjoyment of the water.

Parents: Who taught you how to swim?

Becky Flanigan was an English major in college, and now uses those skills when writing freelance articles for PoolCenter.com. She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.

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