Learning to swim is a valuable skill for your children. Not only does it set your child up with a healthy exercise for their fitness and well being, but perhaps more importantly it provides them with a skill to safeguard them from accidents or incidents around water.
Shona Pallas has over 20 years experience in the learn to swim industry and works in the renowned Paul Sadler Swimland Schools who have over 25,000 children swimming in their pools each week. We've worked with Shona and Paul Sadler Swimland schools to put together a list of top tips to help you prepare your kids for their swimming lessons.
How To Choose a Swim school? It's important to do your research when looking for a swim school and seek out a school that has a Swim Australia Five star accreditation. For your child to enjoy the environment and want to go in the water, look for a pool with warm water too (32 degrees). Go for a visit before you choose your school, and see whether the lessons look inviting and look at how well the instructor is engaging with the students. Your gut feel can be an impressive indicator of whether your child will like it too.
When Should My Child Learn to Swim? It's a great idea to introduce your child to swimming from an early age, with many centres starting baby lessons from 4 months old. By starting early, your child will get used to water from a young age and not develop any unhealthy fears. It's never too late to learn to swim, so if your kids are older and have never learnt this valuable lesson, you should still enrol them now.
What Swim Equipment do I Need for Lessons? All equipment, floats and aides are provided at most swim schools. However, for babies and toddlers that aren't toilet trained a swim nappy will be necessary. As children progress through their lessons, a pair of goggles at some stage may also be required.
What Can I do to Prepare my Child for Lessons? There are some simple steps that parents can employ at home to assist their child in readiness for swimming lessons. Bathtime is a perfect place for water play and to build up positive water association and confidence. From an early age, it is a good idea to encourage your child to get their face wet and to splash around. Make bathtimes fun and try to encourage your child to not be fearful of having water poured over their face and head. When shampooing their hair, let them know that you'll be putting water over their head and get them to practice blinking. This will mean that when the time comes for them to be submerged in their swimming lessons, they'll already know how water feels on their face and head and they won't be as anxious.
What Can I do if my Child Doesn't Want to Go? Children can sometimes be fearful of the unknown, and may resistent lessons because they aren't sure of what to expect. Talk to your child and tell them what you are doing and where you are going. Explain to them that they will be learning to swim and keep conversation fun and unbeat, letting them know that by learning to swim, they'll be able to swim like Mummy/Daddy etc. When the first lesson comes round, Introduce your child to the instructor, and show them some of the fun things that they might be doing in the pool in their lesson. Finally, if the child is extremely reluctant (refusing to enter the water), ask the instructor if you are able to go into the pool with them for the beginning of the lesson.
Starting swimming lessons from an early age (e.g. 4 months) will alleviate a lot of this reluctance, as they'll always be used to the water and the swimming lesson environment. If your child is getting extremely anxious, speak to your instructor about their concerns and work with them to assist your child. If they are particularly scared about being submerged, for example, maybe ask that this component be ommited for a week or so until they have more confidence. Stopping your child's lessons should not be an option as your child will then have to start from the beginning again and this might cause even more anxiety.
Celebrate Successes Finally, children will progress at different stages and will hit developmental swimming milestones at different times. However, you don't just have to celebrate the big stuff; take an interest in every lesson and celebrate what they have achieved and how they have improved in different areas. Gentle encouragement will also help them to challenge themselves more; so when you see that they are struggling in an area, encourage them to try their hardest and celebrate when they do.
Swimming can be a great fun activity as a family, so aside from lesson time, make sure that you spend time together in the local pool, in a friends pool or at the beach. By demonstrating how fun swimming and water play can be, you'll motivate your children to want to get better at swimming so that they can safely join in with water fun too.
Paul Sadler Swim Schools is a leading provider of swimming lessons in Victoria, with 11 swim schools in Victoria and one in Queensland. For more information, or to book swimming lessons go to http://www.paulsadlerswimland.com.