Here, at Mountain Wave Swimming, we are always incredibly impressed by the great ability and resilience our students show while learning hard and new things. The self-rescue skills we teach our young swimmers can be difficult at first, and, once mastered, each child will need to continue to practice consistently in order to retain them. This is especially true for young swimmers (those under the age of 6) or kids who don’t get to go swimming frequently. If students continue to practice what they have worked on, they not only become safe in the water, but come to truly love swimming! Because of the need for continued practice, we recommend discussing a “maintenance program” with your instructor so you can help your child retain all the skills they gain during lessons.
A maintenance program can look very different from child to child. When helping you come up with your best options, your instructor will probably ask you questions like:
- How often are you able to take them to a pool?
- How is bathtime going?
- Do you have any videos of them doing their skills?
- Would your schedule allow you to do maintenance lessons here?
Below, we have compiled our best recommendations to help your child keep their self-rescue skills as well as some feedback we have received from other swim parents on how they have helped their kids maintain their skills. Notice that our swim parents usually use a variety of the recommendations to help their children be successful!
Option #1 – Maintenance Lessons
When first starting lessons with a young child we recommend coming 2-5 times a week for 10-20 lessons, or until they are consistently able to self-rescue. After these skills are mastered, we gauge whether students are ready to move on to kicking and basic stroke technique. Many show signs of readiness to move forward but others, due to age or temperament, may not be interested in learning additional swimming skills immediately.This is also a time to evaluate how much time you have to dedicate to further swim lessons – it is not always doable to keep kids coming to lessons several times a week when families have so many other activities going on as well! Please see the table below for some basic recommendations based on age.
|0-2 years||Usually this age group isn’t quite ready to move onto strokes but may start wanting to kick!||Start by coming once a week for 2 weeks. If they are keeping their skills between lessons, lower to once every other week, then once a month. Ideal space between lessons is between 2-6 weeks.|
|2-5 years||Not showing signs of readiness||If your child isn’t showing signs of wanting to move onto other skills, you can do a maintenance plan similar to the plan for 0-2 year olds|
|2-5 years||Showing a desire to kick through the water and add arms||Continue coming once or twice a week until they have reached the skill level you desire and then space out further aiming to come back every 2-6 weeks to practice what they have learned!|
|5+ years||Usually this age group is very eager to start swimming||Come once or twice a week until desired skill level is reached. Come back as needed to gain further skills or practice what has been learned. Kids over the age of 5 retain what they have learned well and may not need to come as often to maintain basic swimming skills.|
Option #2 – Go Swimming Together
We recommend taking your child to the pool as frequently as possible, especially while your child is taking their initial lessons with us. Learning self-rescue skills can be hard, and 20 minute lessons don’t leave a lot of time for playing and relaxing in the water. It can help kids gain confidence and have more fun in the water when they have time to play and explore with their parents and other adults they trust. This is also the perfect time to set some new expectations around water, if you haven’t already done so, like not using floaties, to prepare them to interact with the water in a safe way.
When first going to a new pool, make sure to set clear boundaries and expectations. Don’t put your child in floaties or a puddle jumper. Instead, get in the pool with your child. Try to keep the adult/child ratio as close to 1 to 1 as possible. Assign someone outside of the water to be a “water watcher” (someone whose responsibility it is to make sure all the kids are safe, both in and out of the water – this person should rotate periodically). Explain to your kids what areas of the pool they can touch the bottom in, and which areas they can’t. Encourage them to use the skills they learn during lessons, but don’t turn pool time into a lesson. You don’t want them to think that every time you pull out their swim trunks they are in for lots of hard work. Just gently invite them and eventually they will be showing off and having fun!
With that in mind, we do recommend having them do their skills once when they first get into the pool. If they are able to float independently during lessons, have them enter the pool with you in an area where they can’t touch or an area opposite the toys they want to play with. Help them float over to the toys or area they would like to play in and then allow them to play for the rest of the time. If they can get to their backfloat independently during lessons, do the same, but have them jump in and come up by themselves before you assist them across the pool. If they show interest in going where they can’t touch, encourage them to let you assist them on their backfloat to get there. Always encourage them or invite them, but don’t push them too much after they have done their skills once.
If you don’t have great access to a pool, get creative! There are a few community pools/hot springs in the area; but there are also private hot tubs and pools that friends and family might have access to and local hotels often allow swimming to the community for a small fee. We will also try to offer more “open swim” times at our pool in coming seasons!
Option #3 – Practice at Home
Even if you can’t get in for lessons or to a pool to practice, there are things you can do at home to help your kids maintain their skills.
Take videos during lessons to have your kids watch outside of the pool. Watching themselves do the skills can help them do better during lessons, and retain their skills better between lessons as well – visualization is an incredible tool!
Have them practice “backfloat position”, kicking, front/back stroke (whatever they happen to be working on) on their bed or on the living room floor. Have them show family and friends. Consistently practicing this, even on dry land, can help kids retain the muscle memory they need to float and swim when they have long breaks between lessons.
For younger children, fill up the bathtub a little more and encourage practicing and exploring in the tub. This can be really effective if you have siblings who will copy and encourage each other to go underwater or lay on their backs in the tub. Even if they can feel the bottom, practicing in a small safe space can help build confidence to do it in bigger bodies of water too. If your little swimmer is hesitant to practice in the tub, consider filling the tub up more, putting on a swim suit, and getting in with them so they can feel your support as they practice going underwater and laying on their back. Please keep in mind safe bath time guidelines: never leave your child alone in the bath, always drain the bath immediately upon removing your child, and consider putting down a non-slip mat to avoid accidents.
Option #4 – Group Lessons
Over the past year, we have developed group lessons designed to help kids between the ages of 2 and 4 years old to maintain their safety skills while also moving on to basic stroke work. These lessons are a cost effective way to give kids an opportunity to use their skills with their peers in new and fun ways!
We generally do 2 sessions of 2-4 year old group lessons In Fall and Winter Season. Some sessions meet once a week and some meet twice a week. If you are interested in moving your child from the private lessons to group lessons, talk to your instructor or reach out to our office for more information on when new sessions start.
In summary, using a combination of the options listed above is going to be most effective in maintaining skills and building a solid swimming foundation for your child’s life. For infants and children ages 0-5, especially, it is vital to build layers of safety, including self-rescue skills, and continue to practice the skills on a regular basis once they are learned. More information about why learning, and keeping, safety skills is so important can be found in our blog post about “Safety v. Fun” and “Why Water Safety?”. Regardless of the level of mastery your child reaches in the water, there is never going to be an adequate replacement for diligent and effective supervision. Always be aware around water, even once your child is able float, swim, and reach safety on their own.
Maintenance Program Examples:
Oakley’s Maintenance Program:
“We started lessons with [Mountain Wave Swimming] when [Oakley] became very mobile and could walk on her own. We did 10 lessons close together then went to 1 a week and as skills progressed moved to 1 a month. We only go swimming maybe a couple times a year at a pool and do as suggested to not use the puddle jumper in pool settings and only use it in lake settings. We have found that when we let her use her puddle jumper in the pool she regresses when she returns to lessons. With this being said we stay with her constantly and help her in the water. In the pool setting we don’t push doing her skills, maybe do floating or jumping in once or twice but let her play and enjoy the water. If we force her skills when we are at the pool, we notice that she doesn’t want to keep trying.”
Daniel’s Maintenance Program:
“We did 10 lessons when he was 3 years old and those were his first lessons at Mountain Wave Swimming.He successfully passed a duck float after those lessons and we spent the whole summer swimming in the pool 3-4 times a week.
A year later he did 20 lessons, 2x a week for the first 10 and then 1x a week for the last ten. We went swimming throughout the summer again.
[This year we’re] doing the group lessons once a week!”