How to choose the right swimming lessons for your child?
Splash in the water, learn the four strokes or compete in a swim meet, swimming is a fun sport that can be enjoyed by kids of all ages and ability levels. Swimming builds confidence, even stimulates a child's appetite, so why not swimming?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids wait until they are at least 4 years old before taking formal swimming lessons, and a study showed that children learn to swim well around 5 and half of age regardless of how early they started swimming. However, there is nothing wrong with taking infants or toddlers to swimming programs. Introducing kids to swimming early helps kids to overcome their fear of water and enjoy being in the water. Many aquatic programs offer "Parent & Tot" classes and it is a good opportunity to learn about water safety as well. A good place to start is the aquatic program offered by your local city recreation department. It is much less expensive than specialized swimming school program.
Once your kid is ready for formal swimming lessons, it is time to pick a good program. Here are some tips:
- Check out the class before you sign up. Watch a session with your child together, or ask if your kid can try one class before signing up.
- Check the instructor's credentials. You have to be comfortable with the instructor's abilities.
- Check the teacher to student ratio. A small class will give your kid more time to learn. For beginners, you wouldn't want the class to have more than 4 kids per teacher.
- Check the pool. Is the pool clean? Is the pool heated? Is the water temperature comfortable enough?
- Watch how the instructor interacts with your child. Is he/she patient, encouraging, and kind? If your child is visibly scared of the instructor, it is a sure sign that you should find another class or school.
- Check with other parents.
- Is the program flexible for absence and make up classes?
- Understand different skill levels in the program. Are they clearly defined? Is there a test to get into the next level?
- Does the program offer any award (a certificate or a ribbon) to encourage children to learn and move to the next level?
Keep an eye on your child's progress. Though every child is different, with the right instructor, your child should be able to show progress fairly quickly at beginning. In most classes, freestyle and backstroke are taught first. These two styles are similar and relatively easy to learn. Once your child moves on to intermediate level, breaststroke will be taught. Breaststroke is very different from other strokes and it is regarded as one of the most difficult strokes in competitive swimming. Some swim schools have the instructors teach outside the water starting intermediate level, but your child really needs the instructor in the water to correct her/him. If you see your kid struggling greatly and the instructor doesn't help much, it's time to find a better school. Private lessons come handy at this point, as you can ask the coach to fix certain things specifically.
You will feel great sense of relief and pride once your kid can swim all four strokes. At this point, your kid can continue to take classes to sharpen the skills or join a competitive swim team. There are many advantages in joining a team. One of them is the opportunity to participate in swim meets. Not every swimmer becomes a world record holder, but they all learn from their swimming experience. Swim teams usually have very good coaches. And cost wise it costs much less than swimming lessons, provided that parents fulfill volunteering hours at swim meets. Swim teams have practices most of the week, though attendance is not required, it is more demanding time wise. If you are not sure about joining a team, try it out during summer as it is easier to manage frequent practice without school or homework.
Summer is the best time to start swimming or take the existing swimming skills to the next level. Everything else aside, it is fun to be just in the water.