A mother writes:
Thank you for writing about water safety this week. We own a pool and I notice that when my kids have their friends over to swim, some of them haven’t had much formal swim lessons and so they aren’t very good swimmers. Others who have had swim lessons don’t follow some of the basic “pool rules” you mentioned, especially running on the pool deck, pushing each other into the pool, and pushing heads under the surface. This drives me crazy — I feel like I’m the “bad mom,” always yelling at them and expecting them to know these basic rules! How old do kids have to be to start swim lessons?
Three-quarters of the planet is covered in water, so it really is essential that everyone who is able learns how to stay afloat and swim. This is the American Academy of Pediatrics stand on when young children are developmentally ready for swim lessons:
Children need to learn to swim. The AAP supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years and older, and for children 1 to 4 years of age who are ready to learn how to swim. Keep in mind that because children develop at different rates, each child will be ready to swim at her own time.
Some factors you may consider before starting swimming lessons for younger children include:
- Frequency of exposure to water
- Emotional maturity
- Physical limitations
- Health concerns related to swimming pools (for example, swallowing water, infections, pool chemicals)
While some swim programs claim to teach water survival skills to children less than 12 months old, evidence does not show that they are effective in preventing drowning. Swim lessons do not provide “drown-proofing” for children of any age, so supervision and other layers of protection are necessary even for children who have learned swimming skills.
The American Red Cross offers swim lessons in places all over the country for young children, older kids, and even adults:
At the Red Cross, our swimming classes for kids are tailored to the needs of each child, so that he or she can progress at a comfortable pace. And although some children may advance more quickly or slowly, our instructors ensure that everyone receives the instruction they need.
In the Learn-to-Swim program, parents or guardians of children up to 5 years of age will actively participate in their kids’ swim lessons. This not only helps increase the child’s comfort level in the water, but can help parents understand the process and practice skills with their children between classes.
Here is a peek at the items your child will be taught in the American Red Cross’s Learn-to-Swim program:
The Learn-to-Swim program focuses on building skills one step at a time. By giving them the opportunity to master one element before moving on to the next, our kids’ swim classes make it easy to build confidence in the water.
During their swim lessons, children will spend time on the following six levels:
- Level 1: Introduction to Water Skills: Students will learn how to feel comfortable in the water and safely enjoy it.
- Level 2: Fundamentals of Aquatic Skills: Children will learn basic swimming skills.
- Level 3: Stroke Development: Additional guided practice will help students improve their skills.
- Level 4: Stroke Improvement: Kids will gain confidence during swim lessons, improve their stroke and gain additional aquatic skills.
- Level 5: Stroke Refinement: Guidance allows kids to refine their strokes and become more efficient swimmers.
- Level 6: Swimming and Skill Proficiency: Students will learn to swim with ease and efficiency, and gain the ability to swim smoothly over greater distances. Swimmers will also have the option to participate in more advanced courses.
Most community pools offer both individual and group swim lessons for children; private swim clubs and country clubs do the same for their members. Communities with access to indoor pools might offer formal swim lessons year-round. Ask around and share the information you find with the parents of those kids whose swim skills need improvement.
And if they don’t start to shape up with their pool safety etiquette, then ship them out! They should know better and only have to be told the rules once.