Swimming Lessons for Preschoolers

August 16th, 2011 by Dionna | 7 Comments
Posted in Consistent and Loving Care, Eclectic Learning, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity

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2011-08-03 01

Showing off his flawless front float

Kieran took swimming lessons for the first time this summer, and because it was his first real “class” experience, it was as educational for me as it was for him. What have I learned?

I’ve learned that it is acceptable to talk to supervisors about individual needs and to advocate for your child. Luckily, the staff and teachers at Adventure Oasis were more than willing to work with me.1 I’ve learned that I am comfortable sharing my own knowledge with the teacher, even though the teacher is considered the “expert.” And I’ve learned that Kieran is capable of so much more than I ever imagined possible.

You can read more about his personal experience in “Preschoolers and Challenges: Weighing the Potential for Frustration Against the Possibility of Success.” Today I’d like to share some of the more general things I’ve learned about swimming lessons for preschoolers.

If your preschooler has asked about swimming lessons, here are a few tips I would offer based on Kieran’s experience:

  1. Don’t push lessons prematurely. I would not have forced a class experience like this on Kieran if he hadn’t asked for it or seemed ready for it.
  2. Look for teachers who make learning fun. Kieran always left lessons happier when Caleb (Kieran’s teacher) took time to play silly games and have fun with the kids. Yes, lessons will sometimes consist of instruction and repetition, but learning can (and should) be a fun experience.
    Teachers can turn an instruction point into a game. For example, when teaching the kids how to flutter kick, Caleb uses the game “Red Light, Green Light.” Another “game” that Kieran really enjoyed was when Caleb let the kids take turns being the teacher. They took turns explaining the moves to each other, and then Caleb would “forget” how to do something himself so all the kids could help him.
  3. Make sure teachers take time to connect with kids. Not all teachers are created equally. Some instructors are simply more adept at teaching older children, and they are uncomfortable with the exuberance of preschoolers. If your teacher is not a good fit for your child, talk to a supervisor (or if you’re comfortable, talk to the teacher). You may be able to help establish a connection – or find a new instructor – so that your child will have a positive experience.
  4. Look for teachers who correct with positive redirection. One of the hardest things for me was seeing Kieran’s face fall when he was told, “no, that’s not exactly right – let’s try again.” Preschoolers respond so much better to positive redirection, and their feelings and spirit can be crushed when they are told they are doing something “wrong.” Teachers of preschoolers may find it helpful to focus more on what the students are doing correctly – start with the positive, then follow up with a constructive tip on how to improve. “Wow, that time you floated on your back with only my little finger holding you up! You’re learning to do the float on your own. This time, let’s pretend that I am pulling on your belly with a string. When your belly is sticking up higher, it will be easier to float.
  5. Don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m sure the pool staff rolled their eyes at me, because I was “that mom.” Kieran was uncomfortable with me being far away from him, so I sat closer to the pool than the other parents. The first day of class, in fact, Kieran wouldn’t even let me leave his side in the pool. Thankfully that didn’t last. And in Kieran’s third session of lessons when Caleb was suddenly blessed with not one, but three preschoolers, he graciously allowed me to email him some articles I’d found on teaching swimming to preschoolers. I felt good knowing that he was open to learning something new, and I hope it helped him become a more effective teacher.

The following articles also have great tips on swimming lessons for preschoolers:

If your preschooler took swimming lessons, what tips would you share with other parents?

  1. Adventure Oasis is a city owned public pool in Independence, MO. Like them on Facebook!

7 Responses to:
"Swimming Lessons for Preschoolers"

  1. Alicia @ LactationNarration   LactNarration

    My daughter took swim lessons for a year when she was 3. During this time we took both group and private lessons, at 4 different pools with 7 different instructors. One of these instructors in particular was just not meant to work with children. She was a bully and had no sympathy for children who were cold, scared, or crying. At one lesson, a group of parents tried to intervene in a situation of a child’s prolonged crying, and after that all parents were told they could not sit near the poolside anymore. That was the final straw for me. There is no way I was going to leave my 3 year old there without being close enough to monitor the situation. We had taken lessons there for 6 months, and while they were able to tell me that my child would not be in this person’s class, I just couldn’t go back there. We were able to find a more suitable class, though it was a little further from home and less convenient.

    Any time I am not welcome to remain with my child, I go the other way. This has come up in a variety of settings, not just swim classes – also a dance class, a martial arts class, and a pediatric dentist! I just walk out and say “Nope, I’ll find somewhere else, thanks.”

  2. maria   MariaWJ

    Thank you for this information. A lot of my friends have given me a hard time about my son not taking swim lessons yet (he’s four), but he was adamant that he didn’t want to do it, and we did not force him. This post reconfirms many of the reasons why, and now that he is asking to learn to swim and take lessons, it will come in very handy. Thank you. :)

  3. Olivia   OliviaStreaterL

    Great article and timely. I have observed the teacher at our local swimming pool first hand. She barks orders at the kids like a Sergeant Major, fag in one hand, the other one waving. Had already made a mental “no way Jose” note in my head. I find it really hard to be one of “those mothers” — you know — the ones “making a fuss” in classes — and risking the discomfort that that involves. But I know I need to do so to be a better advocate for my child! It’s a balance I know between accepting the imperfection of life and being assertive. Good practice for this Mumma…

  4. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Ok, I was wondering about this, so I’m glad you wrote about your experience. When my parents were visiting, my mom said something about, “I’d think you’d need to do swim lessons for safety reasons, since you live around water.” I’d dismissed the idea because Mikko’s so reluctant to do any sort of classes or group activities with other kids. (Part separation anxiety, part shyness, part … I dunno what. Four-year-old-ism?) I broached the subject with him about swim lessons, and he immediately shot it down, as I suspected he would. I cajoled a bit, and he got annoyed with me. So, not sure that we’ll do it any time soon.

    BUT — what you said about not leaving Kieran’s side in the pool? (And, sorry, this was the POINT of my leaving a comment, heh.) That’s possible, that you’re in the pool WITH him? Because then maybe, MAYBE, I could convince Mikko to give it a shot. Side of the pool, no way. :-/ I think I’ll ask at the pools around here if there are teachers around here who allow parent participation.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      The class Kieran took was not supposed to have parents in the pool. However – when I called to enroll him, I specifically asked about it, and they told me I could be in there with him, so when I showed up and they told me differently, I talked to a supervisor and they let me break the rules. Then it was just the process of getting Kieran comfortable enough to let me inch my way out of the water and to the side over the next few lessons.
      You might consider private lessons – those teachers would likely be much more flexible.
      Also, I don’t think any swimming instructor would ever tell you that lessons for preschoolers are going to save their lives if they happen to fall in a body of water unattended. Might it improve their chances of getting out? Yes, maybe – but for the most part, preschoolers are simply not ready to “swim” to save themselves.
      Lessons at this age are definitely about fun and comfort – not so much the survival skills.

      • Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

        Oh, very true about the survival aspect. There’s no way I’m letting him around water without an adult at this age anyway (and that includes the bathtub!). That’s one reason I haven’t been too worried about getting him into classes. When my mom was harping on it, though (you know how it can be with external pressure…), I started wondering if it’s better to start earlier rather than later? I think I might go back to my original idea of swimming for fun at this point, and lessons at the age when he asks for them. We’ve been trying to suggest some floating and kicking play to him when we’re in the pool anyway.

        Thanks for the clarification about being with him in the pool. I love hearing about other rule-breakers, even if you are worried about being “that mom.” That’s totally me, too. Sigh. We do what we must, right? Private lessons is a good idea, too, if it’s not too expensive. I wonder if I could get a few others together for a semi-private class, like for homeschoolers.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I’m glad we gave Kieran the opportunity, and it really helped motivate me to get him to a pool since we don’t have easy access to any pools. It was cheaper to give him 2 wks of lessons that it is for us to visit that same facility twice :/
        And I’d definitely look into teaming up with other parents for a semi-private class – I talked to Kieran’s teacher about doing something for our learning co-op later this fall, I hope it works out!

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