Swimming — The Bump
School-Aged Children


I was talking to a co-worker at the end of the school year about his 4 year old daughter and swimming lessons.  She's scared to put her face in the water, and the swim teacher basically told him they have already screwed up by not dumping water over the child's face when she was a baby. 

So, anyway, that got me thinking about a topic for the board:  How and when did your child learn to swim? If you did swim lessons, were they group or private?  At what age did you start?  If your child was fearful at any part of the process, how did he/she work through it?  What advice would you give to someone with a younger child who is looking to start swim lessons?
High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade

Re: Swimming

  • DS liked going in the pool at age 1, but he became fearful of the water at age 2. I took him to Mommy and Me lessons when he was 3, but he was still pretty fearful.

    He is 4 now, almost 5. In anticipation of our beach vacation, I found a swim class specifically for fearful children. I talked up how fun it would be. We didn't go to a pool before the first lesson, but I had him put on his swimsuit and pretended bath time was a swimming lesson.

    He loved swimming lessons. He had a blast at the beach, and even tried boogie boarding. He graduated to beginner, so we are doing that next week. DD is 2 yo, and we do Mommy and Me lessons while he is in his lesson. The lessons are 4 days in a row. We will try to swim for fun on the weekends.
    DS born 8/8/09 and DD born 6/12/12.
  • My daughter was afraid to put her face in the water at 4 years old too.  She outgrew it.  She's 11 years old now and on a swim team.  I feel the best classes are the ones that parent's aren't allowed in the pool with their children, small teacher to child ratio.  My kids starting at around age 5  with group lessons at the rec center and at the local high school pools and would take swim classes once a week from Sept - May until they completed all the levels, then my daughter went on to join a local swim team. 
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  • I too feel like classes where the parents aren't in the pool with their kids and small teacher to child ratio are best.  Both of my kids started swimming lessons year round when they were 3 years old.  DD (just turned 6 last month) is 1 level away from being considered a "safe swimmer."  She can continue there if she wants to be on swim team.  She is still debating.  DS started in January and is such a fish.    
    DD~6 years old~born June 6, 2008 (1st grade)
    DS~4 years old~born November 6, 2010 (1st year of preschool)
  • Both of my kids took lessons at the Y starting when they were around 4 1/2.  They were both hesitant to put their faces in the water at first, but still learned to paddle and keep themselves up in about 4 months of lessons.

    DD was hesitant to wear goggles or put her face in, and it really took her another year after learning to front paddle to get to the point where she could pass the deep-water test at our pool.  Once she was willing to try goggles, she went from doggy paddling to swimming like a little fish in no time.  DS was less bothered by putting his face in.  We also asked around the Y and found a time slot with a veteran teacher.  She was fantastic.  By the time he finished a few sessions with her, he was ready to swim without a float, and he was swimming in the deep end by the time he turned 5.

    I agree with PPs that  the best lessons are small group or private where the parent is not in the pool.  I know that my kids were more motivated by a teacher and a class-like setting than they were when I tried working with them at our pool.  I would recommend asking around for recommendations for swim teachers.  My kids have had awesome teachers and some who were... just okay.  The one we eventually settled on for my son made a huge difference.  

    Also, I would say not to worry if a child is pretty fearful in the preschool years.  Bot of my kids were really hesitant to go underwater at first, but you would never have known it by the time they were 6.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • DD started at 15 months in a mom and me class. She swam at age 5. DS1 did swim classes since age2. He swam at 4. DS2 only took one class at. 3 yrs. he can quasi swim now at 4. All were Y type classes. Dd did take real classes in the winter as she wanted to try out for swim team. But I forgot try out day...

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  • We always had them in the water when we could, weekly a t the neighborhood pool in summers since they were one, in the winter did a parent and me class when they were maybe 18 months, at 2 1/2 we moved somewhere w a great indoor splash pool and went frequently in winter too. We did formal lessons starting around 3 and did private w the two of them together bc the classes were so hard to get into and only four week cycles while private was 8. Then a new swim school opened and it is a awesome they do groups of four and it is ongoing they just keep moving up and you don't have to sign up again and it takes however long it takes to move up. They have improved greatly from 4-5 and I think they'll be pretty independent by fall.
  • ss+elss+el member
    Your co-worker didn't screw up. DS loved the water as a baby. You could literally throw him into a pool as long as there was someone there to catch. When he was three, he started to develop an aversion to the water and at four, he was officially afraid. He is five and I finally got him swimming lessons (could never find any at times that I could get him to). He took private lessons in someone's back yard. Again, afraid of the water, but they are trained to deal with reluctant kids and had him jumping off the diving board by the end of day one and blowing bubbles while kicking with kickboard by the end of the week. Still says he's afraid, but cooperates and relaxes once he's in a pool.
  • First, don't use your co-worker's swim instructor, yikes! :(  Kids aren't all ready for things in life based on their age.

    My DD took her very first swim lesson last summer, one year ago from this month actually, at age 6.75yrs old because SHE was ready and asked to go to swim lessons. We were in TX on summer vacation so we called up Emler Swim School for their 2-week daily lessons. After 1 lesson she had her face IN the water, eagerly swimming back and forth, craving the next skill. Once we got home, we signed up for 8 weeks of daily lessons that lasted through September and she mastered every stroke!

    These lessons were all group with 1 instructor and 3 children total. Parents sat behind glass walls where the kids could see them but not well and couldn't hear them.

    We just flew home from our summer vacation in TX this year and DD went back to Emler and had another fantastic experience!

    I highly recommend a swim school with very small group lessons! I found the peer influence really encouraged and pushed my DD. :)

    eclaire 9.10.06  diggy 6.2.11

  • ss+el said:
    Your co-worker didn't screw up.
    Yeah, I gently suggested that the whole "pour water over their faces as infants" thing is B.S.  Both my kids were fine with that when they were babies, but reached a point where they were more fearful of the water around age 2.

    I've seen parents at the pool dunking their screaming, crying toddlers to "get them used to it."  True, some of those kids are then going under water at age 2.  But man, that is SO not my style as a parent.  And, I'm not sure that kids whose parents "get them used to it" actually learn to swim any faster than my kids did.
    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • DS took lessons starting at 3 in a small group. They made it fun. He got scared of diving and going in deep water around age 4 but with private lesson got over it. Now at 5 he's tired of swimming lessons so we stopped. I took lessons when I was a baby till school age and had no fear to a fault. I jumped in the deep end thinking I could swim and had to be rescued several times. For that reason we waited to take lessons for LO. Also, the swim instructor told us to practice blowing bubbles and getting head wet in the bathtub when taking a bath. I never thought about that but its so easy to start them off that way.
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  • DS did mom & tot lessons from 6 months to 3 years. When he was 3 he started group lessons and hated them. He did 4 rounds of the same level with almost no improvement.

    A few months ago we started private lessons (he had just turned 4) and it is amazing at the difference it has made! He has become so confident and loves going to lessons now! When he started the private lessons he was nervous to do anything without his puddle jumper. Today he jumped into the deep end off the diving board with no life jacket on! It was crazy to see and he was just beaming with pride!!!! He still has a lot to work on but he's able to swim a few feet on his own and is starting to tread water.

    I think the one on one attention has been awesome for DS. He's a pretty cautious kid so it can take him a bit to gather his courage and try something. In a typical group setting the instructor doesn't have time for that and would just mark that he couldn't do it and move on to the next kid.
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