Consistency is Key
Consider scheduling at least two swim lessons per week. The closer together the lessons are scheduled, the greater the progress will be. An intensive schedule (ie. Lessons scheduled multiple days in a row over the span of two weeks, for example) followed by bi-weekly lessons is a great way to see fast results. Lessons scheduled only 1 day per week may result in a slower learning progression, but weekly lessons can still be beneficial for a swimmer. The physical and mental memory of children is not as sophisticated as that of adults, so if you go more than a week between swim lessons, the progress that the swimmer made last lesson may not be as valuable. For this reason, consistency is of the uptmost importance.
Practice is Key
Spend at least 1 hour per week in the pool outside of class. This can include just "playing" in the water. Children can learn a tremendous amount during "play" time as it is not as formal and can be done in the comfort of their own home or an envoirnment which is familiar to them. As a parent, spending time getting into the pool and swimming with your child can be extremely valueable, especially if your child is not yet comfortable in the water or if they have any types of fears. If you do not have a pool at home, there are many public pools around the city that you can use for the day. If you have a friend or neighbor with a pool, consider setting up a pool play date with a very small group. You can also make a lot of progress in the bathtub. Some important skills that can be worked on in the bath are: blowing bubbles. splashing with hands and feet, kicking, putting ears/nose/mouth underwater, putting face in the water, and more.
Patience is Key
Work through your child's fears with them and talk to them about what scares them most about putting their face in the water. You can find picture books that talk about swimming in a positive light. Or, you could create an incentive system with your child so that when they take small steps they are rewarded. The use of goggles can also be helpful -- try buying a pair for use at home to practice with in the bathtub. You can practice all sorts of skills in the bathtub and have it be a fun way to remember what your child was learning during their lesson. Encourage them by telling them if they can do it in the bathtub they can do it in the swimming pool too!
New Habits are Necessary
Once your child has started swim lessons, do not allow them to continue to use floaties or a blow-up ring. They need to get used to swimming without these devices in order to maximize their progress. Floaties often give children a false sense of security in the water and allow them to think they can swim when in fact they are not yet water safe. Instead of floaties, consider getting your child a kickboard or a noodle to use in the pool. These tools can help with floation but they are not attached to the child so the child still has to use his/her legs to kick as well as use their floating skills to stay balanced and on the surface of the water.
Parents Around the Pool
Some children become distracted and are not as willing to try new things if the parent is around the pool. During the lesson, remain "out of sight out of mind" for the child. Perhaps just watch the class from a distance.
Positive Relationship with the Water
We want to allow the child to develop their swim habits in a nurturing environment. Dunking or the "sink or swim" methodology is not recommended in helping the child establish a positive view of water and swimming. Many children have a fear of going underwater and this will be an important obstacle to overcome in the learn to swim process. Dunking can oftentimes scare the child more and make them even more hesitant in their lessons. Instead, the instructor will use toys and games as well as goggles to help the child learn to feel comfortable putting their face in the water on their own terms. When practicing at home, use these same techniques. If your child is uncomfortable putting his/her entire face in the water, encourage them to put their ears, nose, lips, or hair in the water. This can be a helpful stepping stone to get them to go all the way under.
Whether you have a pool of your own or you frequent local public pools, the following tips are great reminders to keep your children as safe as possible around the water:
Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
Instruct babysitters or caregivers about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.
If you have a pool at your home, completely fence the pool and install self-closing and self-latching gates.
Do not consider young children "drown proof" just because they have had swimming lessons.
Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
Remove your pool cover completely when using the pool as children may become entrapped under it.
Keep toys away from the pool area so that children are not tempted to play with them outside of the water and risk accidentally falling into the water.
Have a telephone poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a call elsewhere.
Learn the basics to CPR.
Remind your children of basic water safety tips.