This is one of the most common questions we receive. When is it too early and when is it too late to start swim lessons? Understanding the different stages of learn to swim can help us with this question.
Starting as a baby won’t necessarily make your child a better swimmer in the long run, but provided the lessons are enjoyable and appropriate for their age, there are many benefits to be had with an early start.
A child-centered program can help to prevent water fears, provide more movement opportunities for the bub than on land, helps to develop social skills and bonding (we just love watching the dads with their bubs) and helps the childs overall development in many other ways.
So, while not yet swimming off into the sunset, there’s plenty of other wonderful benefits to be had in a good baby swim program. The bonus is that with regular attendance your little one will develop basic skills at an earlier age then those who start when they are older. Usually at around two and a half toddlers can propel themselves short distances, turnaround, grab the side and pull up for a breath. While a later starter might be just beginning to put their face in the water.
Until around three or four years of age, depending on the maturity, development and coordination of the child, skills usually taught are all about confidence and safety. Kicking back to the side, floating, propulsion, treading water and other survival skills can help at an age when children are most vulnerable around water.
Regardless of these or other swimming skills a child may have, it’s important to remember that we can never take our eyes off children in or around water.
Once children have basic survival skills and as they mature and become stronger and more coordinated their mastery of swimming strokes increases. This is the stage where teachers not only build upon the basic safety skills but introduce many elements of the formal strokes, such as freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.
Learning to swim is not easy for many children and watching their awkward struggles to master these strokes leaves many parents wondering if they’ve given birth to a baby giraffe or an octopus or that their child is not genetically predisposed to swim!
But do hang in there, with plenty of practice you will have a swimmer and they will eventually pass through this “wobbly” stage.
Moving on from the rather frustrating “wobbly” stage learners then begin to refine their strokes in what we often call stroke development classes or mini squads. Refining the strokes is more important than we often credit. This is not about getting the kids to the Olympics, but rather helps the swimmer to become more efficient in the water so that they are more capable in challenging situations.
A more challenging situation might be colder water than usual, deeper water, rough water or simply unfamiliar water. It often doesn’t take a lot for a swimmer to panic, the more skill they have up their sleeve the more they have to fall back on. The more efficient in water the less energy we use, this means we can generally survive for longer and move further in water. A definite advantage safety wise.
You can see this is a long process and the more stops and starts or time out of the water the slower the process. More time in the water usually means faster progress within the developmental ability of the child. Private swim lessons with smaller groups will generally provide more teacher attention than the larger school swimming groups. If you can manage to do so, we suggest children attend both to accrue as many learning hours as possible.
There are many wonderful developmental and bonding benefits to starting early and it’s usually easier to gain comfort in water by starting at a younger age. Later starters may take longer to feel comfortable in the water, but learn the skills faster once they do become comfortable.
There’s no disputing that people who learn to swim as adults or non-swimming adults would give anything to have learnt to swim as a child. The time and money you’re spending running back and forth to swim lessons will be worth the effort. And while children may not think so right now, we know your children will thank you one day.
For more information on learn to swim check out our Learn To Swim page.
Barbara Nolan - dipadees swim school
Welcome to my blog. I've been in the Learn-To-Swim industry for over 39 years, and I'm passionate about giving everyone from bubs to parents all the skills they need, while also offering lots of fun ideas for people to enjoy, and be safer around water. I hope you find my blog and Dipadees your 'go to' resource for swim lessons and information.