I’m going to be honest with you, teaching your child to swim will require a big commitment. Really, most swim schools will want you to enrol with your baby before they turn 6 months of age and then continue with them right through primary school as your child masters not only water safety skills but the 4 competitive strokes of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Learning great swimming technique does take years to accomplish. But even if your child doesn’t go on to be a competitive swimmer they will go on to have the skills to enjoy a range of sports and recreations in, on, or around water.
Swimming on a budget
Both of my children have attended swimming lessons twice per week since they were 4 months of age. Evie is about to turn 7 and Harper has just turned 4. I do understand that this is a costly exercise. So how can a family on a budget afford this type of commitment? If you have done the numbers and weekly lessons are just not feasible I have some ideas that you could try.
- Do formal swimming lessons during Winter and follow up with water play during summer
A lot of people do this the other way around. They forget about swimming during Winter but once summer hits they desperately try to get their child up to speed again. Learning to swim requires regular exposure and you simply don’t get an opportunity to play swim as much during Winter. Today most swim schools have heated water all year round so taking advantage of Winter swimming is easy. Class sizes can also be smaller during the cooler months as numbers drop off and you may find your child will get more practice time and individual attention.
- Try holiday intensive programs to fast track your child’s progress
Holiday intensive programs or booster blocks where you take your child every day are great for rapid progress. Parents can also take note of what the instructors are working on and practice outside of the lesson at the public pool or home pool environment. The learn to swim process should follow a building block approach of breath control, submersion, floating and propulsion. Honestly, at times, weekly swimming lessons can be a slow process, particularly if you are only attending one lesson per week, so you may like to try the benefits of attending a holiday program or lessons every day to fast track your child’s learning.
- Visit the local council pool and play, children learn through exploration, remember floating is the basis of all learn to swim
Children can learn to swim without formal swimming lessons. But this will require regular opportunities to play and explore the water under supervision and guidance from the parent. This experimenting may not lead to perfect technique but children will become mobile in the water. Floating is the foundation skill of all water safety skills and formal strokes. If children learn to float properly they will use relaxed arms and legs to move easily through the water. Those who don’t master floating will often continue to struggle in the water and never truly be relaxed. Children with home pools often have a huge advantage over those who don’t. This is simply because they get regular play and exposure. But remember home swimming pools also come with responsibilities and risks.
Are swimming lessons really worth it?
I don’t think anyone ever regrets teaching their child to swim. I still love taking my children to swimming lessons, not only because I know it’s good for their health and safety, but because it’s a real supportive community environment. It’s a great place to make friends and get involved with people in your local area. My 4 year old daughter Harper still swims with the same group of children that she started with when she was a baby. I particularly loved swimming lessons when I was participating in the class with my daughters. This was a magic time for bonding where I could spend a full half hour interacting and playing through physical touch and eye contact – which is so important during the early years. In that half hour, I was completely dedicated to them with no distractions from emails or text messages to comb through and no household chores that needed to be completed.
Benefits of swimming
Swimming lessons are great for children’s social, emotional and physical development. Don’t just take my word for it – science backs it up! Professor Robyn Jorgensen conducted a 4 year study which showed that early years swimming actually builds children’s social, emotional, physical and intellectual capital. Children regardless of culture and socioeconomic backgrounds displayed significant advantages. The study also indicated that children’s readiness for school was considerably improved as children had advanced scoring on language development, comprehension, literacy and numeracy. The full study can be found at the following link. https://kidsalive.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2013-EYS-Final-Report-30-July-13-JM.pdf
Swimming is a unique form of recreation and sport that can be enjoyed by babies right through to the elderly. So learning to swim is truly a gift for life. Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children under 5. While no child is drown proof and supervision is essential, I believe learning to swim does teach children a love and respect for the water, making them less likely to wander into dangerous situations. As a parent and a swimming instructor I do appreciate that this will require not only your time but a significant financial investment. But swimming lessons are just that – an investment, an investment in the fun, fitness, health and safety of your child.