- how important is it that I teach my kids to swim early?
- If my child doesn’t start early will they be disadvantaged.
- I want my child to be safe, can you teach them not to drown?
As a parent of 2 boys AND a professional swimming teacher, I’m often asked questions about when parents should start swimming lessons. My answer to this is somewhat controversial – I tell them, most kids can’t really learn to swim until they’re 3 so trying to teach them before that can be a waste of time and money.
Of course, as a swimming nation, this isn’t what we want to hear and I understand completely. My kids were in swimming lessons from 6 months. But with the experience of hindsight and my time as a swimming teacher, I’m not sure it was necessary. There are just a few things that make it unlikely that they’ll learn to swim before they’re around 3yrs old.
- They don’t have the motor skills or coordination. Toddlers are still refining basic motor skills. You only have to take a look at the way they run. They can’t keep their body straight or move their legs and their arms well at the same time. These things are important when trying to move your body through the water.
- Their decision making isn’t great. If you drop them in the water, they don’t think to push off the bottom. If you stand them on a step in the pool, they don’t understand that stepping off it is problem. You don’t want them to be too confident in the water, too early. They’re unable to see consequences.
- Pushing them to learn to swim early can cause resistance to swimming and being in the water. There are some amazing swimming teachers out there that would never let this happen but sometimes the pressure of parents wanting to see their kids progress, actually works against them. The kids don’t enjoy the routine of lessons or being stretched to do something they’re not comfortable with.
Does this mean you shouldn’t have them in swimming lessons before they’re 3? No. I’m just saying it’s not compulsory.
In my opinion, the goal in those first few years it to teach them to love the water. If you can do that, teaching them to swim later, is easy. Conversely, if they have a bad experience or become frightened, then as a swimming teacher, I have to fix that first. They’re not learning anything until there’s trust and confidence.
The best thing you can do with your child in their first few years is to play with them in the water. Make it safe, fun and something they associate good times with. Play with toys in the water, play games, have fun. Paddling pools, especially those with fountains, slides and buckets of water are great for this. Most of all, they’d much rather be doing this with parents and relatives than with a stranger. There’s plenty of time to put them ‘in the deep end’ later.
Do you have a question or like to know more about teaching kids to swim? Feel free to send a note or post a comment – we’d love to hear from you.