Water Safety Lessons v. "Normal" Swim Lessons
Each Spring families start looking for the best swim lessons for their kids but not all swim lessons are the same. Many swim lesson providers use an approach that start with building a child’s love for the water. Once the child is feeling confident in the water (through games, songs, and support) then the instructor will begin introducing bubbles, kicking, and floating. Kids are generally considered able to learn how to swim, in most swim lessons, around the age of 5 and the goal is for a child to be able to tread water for 30 seconds and swim 25 yards before exiting the pool.
What many parents do not know, and therefore don’t take into account, is that water is #1 most dangerous place for their child. Drowning is the leading cause of death for ages 1-4 and when kids are taught that water is safe without being taught the skills to stay safe in it, this risk only increases. Water Safety Lessons focus on teaching breath control, bouyancy (back floating), and swimming skills from day 1! Every single game, song, skill and toy used in a lesson are used for a very specific purpose to teach something that will help build safety and confidence in the water. Unlike other lessons, safety lessons make sure that good habits are taught early on and build over time. There is a focus on floatation and keeping good body balance in the water at all times. Instead of teaching bubbles, the lessons focus on breath control which makes it easier to float and find air.
Once breath control and floating are mastered, then kicking, bubbles, and arms are added! By using this method, kids come to love and enjoy the water WHILE learning to swim. They progress faster and, because they know that they can problem solve in the water, their confidence grows!! Kids as young as 2 years old are able to swim all the way across the pool and get to the safety if they need to. They do so be swimming and kicking with their face in the water and rolling to a back float when they need air. As they get older, this becomes the building block of side breathing.
Children can float for 3-5 minutes (or longer) but can only tread water, on average, for 30 seconds. Treading water can take a huge amount of energy and a tired child may not be able to effectively call for help. In a calm back float, a child can call out and can also get energy to swim to safety.
Whats the Big Difference...and the Big Deal?
This approach really is not, and shouldn’t be, only useful in private swim lessons focused on survival swimming. Regardless of the setting, group, semi private, or private lesson, children do well when they have a routine that they can rely on, good boundaries, and high expectations. Our swim lessons have a set routine that gives the kids we work with a sense of comfort because they know what to expect when they show up to each day. From the first day we make sure that they understand that to go down the slide, or jump, or dive, they need to be able to float independently. Then we show them how to do it, with support. Instead of carrying them through the water, we help them swim or float so that they begin building confidence towards doing it on their own…and then we expect them to be able to master it. We know that with encouragement, time, and patience, every child can master the basic principles of swimming and floating.
Every swim lesson program can do this. Every swim program should be focused on making sure kids can swim in an emergency and be truly safe. I recently taught a child who looked at me, tears in his eyes, and said, “I thought I knew how to swim.” He was having a hard time with not being independent but had had two incidents were he almost drowned due to going out in deep water on his own. He was so sure he could because he had always been helped by an instructor or floaty. To truly encourage kids as they learn, they have to realistically know where they are. It is more discouraging to think they know what they are doing, and then fail.
As it stands right now, we are unique because we train our instructors not just in teaching swimming, but in working with a child’s mind to accomplish great things in their swim lessons. We know that every child can do big things on their own with a little love and praise.