Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Age Should You Start Swimming Lessons?



So much nonsense goes about when it comes to claims about the benefits of getting your child in the water very young. None of it has had any studies done on it and yet it is calmed to be fact. There is one thing that I am convinced: children of any age have a much greater respect for the water when they spend quality time in it; especially with their parents. But I will be honest I can’t prove it.

Personally I prefer lessons to start at around 6 months as they are starting to crawl. But if your child is older than that you have not missed the boat. What ever age they are get your children in the water for swimming lessons. The water is a very natural and fun place to be if you obey it rules and learning to swim is part of that.

There are schools that start their babies in the water at 3 months and I have taught at some of those schools but I’ve become very disillusioned with such approaches.

I saw a video where one school promoted learning to float at three months. It’s a very impressive feat if you can pull it off. I managed to do it myself once or twice but it all seemed a bit pointless for 2 reasons:

  1. Few children in my experience retain the skill once they start to explore their own movement. Whether they retained the skill and are just too busy to be interested or whether they have lost the skill and need to be re-taught it later is a matter for debate. In either case babies float skills have to be constantly reinforced and until they learn to rollover in the water or how to propel themselves. It’s all a bit pointless because they don’t learn any faster and it makes no difference to their safety; which leads me to my next point.
  2.  Babies of any age who learn to float are NOT safe if they fall in the water. The only way to keep your baby safe in the water is constant and vigilant supervision. “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS DROWN PROFING”; that is a fact. Even if your 3 month old can roll over and float in the water and very few if any can (most 3 month olds have only just learn to roll over on land if that, let alone in the water) there is no guarantee they will and conscious propulsion in the water at that age is extremely rare if it exists at all.

So why do I think it’s good for a child to start swimming lessons as early as 6 months? Because it’s fun! At that age they are crawling or about to and their ability to explore makes it fun for them and everybody in the lesson.

Add to this, because they are starting to move they can begin to learn really useful and potential life saving skills; like learn to paddle resulting in real propulsion.

Also and most importantly they learn respect for the water.

As a life guard I see kids and adults who know how to swim and those who don’t and trust me those that do have much more fun in the water and are much more constructive and safe in their play around it.

Learning to swim is learning to respect and love the water. If you respect the water you don’t have to be in constant fear of it. One thing I am convinced of is that a child that spend time in the water with their parents learning how to respect it, no matter how young will always be safer even though not completely safe, in the water than a child who hasn’t.

So any age is a good age but 6 months in my opinion is one of the best.

Enjoy
      Richard

2 comments:

  1. Interesting take on this, Richard. There is indeed no such thing as "drown proof."

    Here is a 1-month old that we started lessons with a few months ago. It does seems that babies can pick up some basic skills, and the acclimation to water certainly isn't a drawback, as you mention!

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  2. Thanks Adventure Swim,
    I'm sure you know that, at 1 month old, going under the water is mostly what they call the "gag reflex" and they don't really need any prompting to hold their breath. Still I'm glade they do prompt the baby as the Gag reflex is not 100% reliable (despite what some will try and tell you). My point is that when one realizes that it is mostly a natural response the whole trick of bobbing babies under water becomes a little less impressive. However Lawry Lawrence, the very famous Australian Olympic swim coach, swears by this sort of prep. I would never contemplate contradicting some one as famous a Lawry but one day I would like to see some proper research that it serves any purpose.

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