What is the secret to teaching your child to swim..do I need to pay for lesson or can I do it myself

Sally - posted on 04/07/2010 ( 15 moms have responded )

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My 2 kids ( 2 and 4) spent a month in Australia recently and were jumping in and out of the baby pool wearing arm bands, after the month ended they were much more confident with splashing and floating in the deep end. My four year kicks and tries to use her arms and does get across the pool in arm bands. My two year old jumps in the deep end and goes totally under and pops up a few seconds later with arm bands.I am not sure how to get them past this stage. I have purchase a kind of float/life vest for my 4 year old to try to free up her arms and give her body buoyancy but not tried it yet.....any advice or previous experiences appreciated. Sal x

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Siobhan - posted on 04/09/2010

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Lessons are great. My brother & I did them every summer & it was really great for us. We are both strong swimmers. My daughter is 2 1/2 & I'm planning on enrolling her in lessons this summer. If you don't have either the $ or time in your schedule for lessons, teaching them yourself should be fine. I suggest having them swim with & without flotation devices. That way they can have freedom to try things on their own when they have a float on, and on the other hand can feel what its like with just their own bouancy.

Three key skills to work on:
1. controlling your breath- have them blow bubbles & practice putting their faces in the water & then turning to the side & breathing. also holding their breath. they need to learn how to quickly alternate between holding breath & taking it in.
2. floating- this can be hard for little kids b/c they usually don't have much body fat & aren't as bouyant. the key to floating is holding your limbs out and pushing your belly up- but not rigidly. you need to relax. also kids natural instinct when learning to float is to pull their chin down & try to sit up when their head gets low in the water- this of course sends them right to the bottom! support their back & have them learn to actually do the opposite- lean their head back which puts the mouth & nose higher above the water.
3. treading water- once your kids can tread water they will be able to do any swimming stroke with practice. they can practice this with flotation devices- check their form & encourage them to try & keep their bodies upright instead of leaning forward/back on the floats. tell them to imagine they are painting the bottom of the pool/pond/ocean with their feet (wax on, wax off-- ha ha ha!) kicking their legs quickly but steadily and rhythmically (not jerking all around. ask them to move their arms to the front & sides (not up and down).

Your 2 year old will probably be able to do a lot of this, just not understand the descriptions, So you could be hands on & guide them as well as model it for them. I hope these tips are helpful. Have fun!

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Heather - posted on 09/13/2015

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I'm teaching my daughter to swim on my own. She's 20 months old and she has just started being able to tread water.

We started when she was 6 months old, just putting her in a pool periodically (maybe 1-2x per month). I just wanted her to be comfortable in the water. I made sure that she never went in a cold pool - I wanted her to associate swimming with being comfortable and happy.

Once she was around 14 months old, I tried to take her to the pool a little more regularly and work on more skills. I started with her blowing bubbles underwater. Then I moved to dunking her under. We started by just getting her shoulders under, then her chin, then her mouth, then her nose, then her eyes, then her whole head. Then we worked up from 1 second to 10 seconds under. Every time I dunked her, I counted "1, 2, 3!" and I blew on her face to get her to close her mouth and hold her breath.

Around 18 months I started taking her every weekend. When we weren't in the pool, we would work on kicking and using big arms to paddle. I tried to teach her different terms that come up during swimming - "kick", "arms", "bend", "straight", etc. I got her comfortable with jumping off the edge of the pool to me so that she wouldn't freak out if she ever fell in. I let her wear a flotation vest until she got the concept of kicking and using her arms to move around. Then we took the best off and she kept doing it on her own.

She spent the last 2 weeks of summer going in the pool every day and working on swimming. She is just starting to come up for air and tread water. I'm trying to teach her to push herself off the bottom of the pool in case she ever falls in, so she can push up and get air. We are also working on holding onto the side to take a break, and trying to climb out of the pool. I've also taught her to swim to the steps to get out. I also put rings or her Frozen figurines on the steps and have her swim to the bottom and grab them and come back up.

The keys for us are a) getting her comfortable with the pool while she was young and not yet scared, b) spending a chunk of time when she goes in the pool as much as possible - every day or multiple times per day.

We are doing formal swim lessons now, but she freaks out with the male swim instructor and cries the whole time, so it hasn't been very helpful so far! You can do it on your own, but it takes a serious time commitment and you should read up on swim instruction techniques before starting.

Tannis - posted on 03/05/2013

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Put your kids in lessons. It not only teaches them swim strokes but all the safety and rescue things that could prevent something bad from happening. My kids were doing the same thing, suddenly fearless and jumping in the deep water. I feel like I would be irresponsible not puttin them lessons. We spend so much time at the lake and our towns pool.

Amanda - posted on 03/04/2013

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I know it has been awhile but I have to say any lessons are a waste of time. I coach swimming myself and will be putting my son in the pre-competitive program I work for and also use to swim for. Swim lessons like Red Cross are about learning water safety. Swimming with a Swim Club, competitive program like Olympians start of with, is the better way to go. The focus on endurance, and proper stoke not just getting from point a to point b. By age 10 I could out swim most of the red cross instructors. I would also say if you don't know how to swim or how to break down a stroke don't try it yourself as injury is easy in the shoulders and knees.

Madame - posted on 02/26/2013

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Getting in the pool with your child as much as possible helped to make my kids early swimmers. Having them close to me and encouraging them personally increased their confidence and fun.

Lyn - posted on 02/25/2013

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waiting until your kid is 4 to start teaching them how to swim is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
still, better late than never.
if you are the kind of person who stays calm, is able to push their kids [not listen to crocodile tears] and is prepared for some spluttering and water up the nose AND you are a competent swimmer yourself, then sure, teach them.
if not, enrol them in lessons.

Jodie - posted on 04/20/2010

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You can get them a small sized circle inner tube that way their arms will be more free to do the swimming motions. My 2 year old did great with it last summer, but you do have to keep an eye on them still.

Jodi - posted on 04/12/2010

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I would recommend your local YMCA. We were blessed to have an awesome instructor for our children who are three & five. They have been swimming on there own (even in the deep end) since last summer. Their instructor also taught them swim strokes, diving in the water & diving to the bottom of the pool. Make sure you have an instructor is that is good with kids (this is a must). Also during swim lessons make sure your child has the teachers full attention; this means you should leave the swim area & stand in the viewing area. I have seen so many parents sit on the bleachers near the pool & the kids are distracted because they want to be with you & do not learn what the teacher is trying to teach them. My son is now on the Y's swim team & my daughter is begging for me to let her go. Hope this helps you!!! God Bless You

Sam - posted on 04/11/2010

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wen my daughter was 2 we went on holiday to spain for a week she would not go in the water but wud play at the side with a buckst and spade gettin water. after a few days she went in the baby pool but wud only put her feet in and walk round no more of her body wud go in the water. we put her in a boat and was pulling her across the water and she dint like tha. she will b 4 in may and we have been takin her swimming every week for about a year and she loves it now, i wanted to take me to get her confidence in the water, but by doin that i have relised that i can teach her to swim my self. i put my hand on her belly and she kicks her legs. with her arm bands on we race from on side to the other, (she always wins thou:).

Catherine - posted on 04/10/2010

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First of all, glad you seem to have had such a good time in Aus.
I have four kids all in swimming lessons (aged 9,8 5 & 3), so clearly I am a fan. However, I do not think they are necessary. If you have the patience and commitment to take them through, you can do it yourself.
Firstly, the arm-bands have to go (during "lesson" time - when you want to relax a bit & just have fun, they're fine).
Secondly, you have to set aside a dedicated time to go to the pool (half an hour or so once or twice a week is plenty) and make sure you take them every time. (This is where I fall down, and the reason my kids are in lessons - if I haven't paid for it in advance, we end up not going:) Consistency is the key.
Thirdly, you need to stay calm - kids can generally go a lot further than you might think, and cope with a bit of water up the nose, down the gullet etc. - but if they see you are worried when they come up coughing & spluttering (as they will on occasion) then they will panic. NB panic is actually the main reason kids drown so quickly, once in panic mode, they inhale the water and it all goes bad. A kid who is confident and calm in the water has a much better chance of survival when the unexpected happens.
From there, it is a matter of catering to each child's ability and confidnence. As in all things, they will most likely progress at different rates, one may be more confident than the other and each will lilely have things that come easily, and those that don't.

If you're after correct stroke technique, (and don't know enough yourself) then lessons are probably a must, especially once they start to gain some ability to swim a couple of metres (usually face in the water the whole time at first).
Hope you all have fun,
Catherine (Australia)

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I barely can keep myself a float so I personally have enrolled my son in swimming classes.
I think if you have some idea of how to swim and are confident in your abilities you can teach your own kids.

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my oldest always loved the water, until she was three and she fell in the pool...luckily, her teenage cousin was actually under the water right there, and "caught" her as she was swimming up out of the pool. After that she only would go in the water with a life vest and a swimming ring on. But when she was able to touch the bottom, she started feeling more comfortable. But she ended up at 6 teaching herself to swim. She will be 9 in June and I can't keep her out of the pool when the weather is nice! We could never afford to give her swim lessons, and she never really wanted to go to them either. If they are already eager to learn, just let them keep going and try letting them go with out arm bands when you are next to them.

Gabrielle - posted on 04/09/2010

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We enrolled our daughter in swimming lessons when she was two and she's still really enjoying them. I've heard bad things about having your kids rely on flotation devices, as they give a false sense of security and don't let your kids really experience what can happen if they jump in the water without them. But I also know a lot of people use them, so just offering a different perspective, not judging. But classes might also help your kids get a good understanding of water safety, etc.

Whitney - posted on 04/08/2010

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check out ISR...Infant Swimming Resource...i just enrolled my 2 year old son and after 3 days he can swim on his own in deep water. check it out. theyve got instructors nationwide...

Sharaina - posted on 04/07/2010

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well i have never used any classes,but my 5 year old learned right before she was three,and a lot of people baby their kids,and i am sort of oppisite when it comes to learning.i let her jump in the deep end ,shallow end but was right there,i took her under water with me had her swim on my back,i also held her under for about three seconds and swam her through the water,none of this was hurtful to her,and she didnt ever act scared or upset,it was just pushing her to learn.and with in a couple weeks she was swimming

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