Parent & Tot
AGES: 9-36 months
Skills: Surface Swim and Safety
Welcome to The Swim Lessons Company's Infant-Toddler program. This section of our website will hopefully answer your questions and alleviate any concerns you may have. We will also share our philosophy and approach to teaching infants and toddlers, as well as discuss the importance of making children safer in and around the water through parent education and instruction. We thank Rob Mckay, producer of the "Diaper Dolphins" video series and and author of The Learn to Swim Book, for sharing much of information below.
Parent and Me Classes Available Now
"I have just gone through the 'Parent and Me' class for the first time and I will tell you that I am set to enroll again for the next session. This experience has been invaluable both in terms of putting my son, Trent, at ease in the water as well as providing Trent and me a new way to bond as father and son while we learn together. I have watched Trent's improvement with a great deal of pride. There is no way that I would have had the skill or the courage to attempt some of the progressions that we now go through so effortlessly. I especially appreciate that you do not force the children to go through these progressions, but rather provide them a fun environment that motivates them to want to try the next step. This has made it easy for Trent and his Dad to have fun in learning. We look forward to seeing you in many future swim sessions. Many thanks!"
Michael Seaman, PH. D & his son Trent Parent & Associate Dean of the USC College of Education
When focusing on the infant-toddler's level of well-being and readiness, baby swimming is taken to a higher level beyond that of strictly acquisition of physical skills. Baby swimming has so much to offer when approached in a nurturing, child-paced, "baby friendly" environment: boundless joy, self-confidence, personal development, as well as happy, healthy and well-adjusted children. Learning through songs, interactive games and group activities, appeals to a child's sense of curiosity, wonder and play. All complemented by colorful toys and other engaging aquatic apparatuses. With mom and dad as co-teachers in the pool, in a group format with other like-minded parents, babies can learn to relate to the water with ease and confidence. Infants as young as seven months old can begin to learn to rediscover the liquid environment they left behind in the womb.
Raising the bar on teaching with kindness and joy
Do no harm. As we enter the new millennium, parents need to be conscious of the fact that the subjugation, forcing or traumatizing of their child in order to learn how to swim, is archaic, stressful to the child and simply unnecessary. This reactionary approach could result in "today's solution ending up being tomorrow's problem." (Jacob) Teachers and parents need to stay in touch with the feelings and perceptions of the child as the immediate and long term consequences of their actions can impact the child for life, both emotionally and mentally. What is expedient and what is ethical may be two different things. Making "survival" back float an imposed priority to unwilling infants and toddlers or children of any age can have a devastating effect on the well-being of the child, as well as society. The same holds true for forced frontal submersions and guaranteeing children to swim or to be "drown proofed" in compressed time frames. Let it be known that crying, distress or the surrendering of one's spirit are not prerequisites to learning how to swim. "Teach me, don't hurt me." As parents and teachers our intent must be focused on sowing the seeds of love and kindness which will bear fruit of a most wondrous kind-beautiful, caring human beings
As a former collegiate swimmer and a diver with a teaching background, we had high expectations for our daughters swimming teachers. Coach Jim and his staff have exceeded those expectations and then some. Our daughter has gone from being very nervous at the start of her to crying because she doesn't want her lesson to be over! We are so happy that we are able to give her the opportunity to learn to swim in such a warm, fun, child centered environment.
Nicole, Keith, & Isabella Iwinski College Diver, All-American
When will they really learn how to swim?
Infant swimming to us is the ability to move harmoniously through the water on their own accord, initially for very short distances. In the younger stages, the primary mode for propulsion is kicking. For those families who continue to practice, their child will eventually be able to jump in, turn around and swim back to the side. Will my child be drown-proofed after taking swim lessons?
No child is ever "drown-proof." No child is ever "safe." This is the most important message every parent must understand. Through ongoing instruction, skill attainment, and through the implementation of the Safer 3, a child will be "safer" in and around the water and if all parents execute the implementation of this layered approach the troubling drowning statistics will dramatically be reduced--hopefully to zero. "Touch" supervision should be in effect for all infants, toddlers, and children who don't know how to swim when they are playing in or around the water. Constant adult supervision should be provided for all children whether or not they are accomplished swimmers. "Children drown without a sound." And all parents should learn the "Safer 3:" Safer Water (utilize proper fencing, gates, gate latches, alarms, and other safety equipment), Safer Kids (constant supervision and swim skill attainment through ongoing qualified instruction), and Safer Response (learn CPR, first aid, and rescue techniques. Keep an emergency action plan and phone by the pool).
What swimming skills will they learn?
Potentially life-saving skills will be taught when the child has had adequate training with the pre-requisites. These skills are only taught when the child is comfortable and ready. The technical maneuvers are never taught prematurely or inappropriately introduced. The progression to the mastery of the safety skills includes water adjustment, blowing bubbles, kicking, getting comfortable with having water poured on face, facial immersion, and elementary swimming movements both underwater and at the surface.
There are two basic safety skills we teach through the progression of exercises and activities we work on every class.
- The first safety skill teaches a toddler to enter the water, turnaround, and grab the side of the pool. This is the most practical method of self-rescue for infant/toddlers as the majority of accidents occur near the edge of the pool or other bodies of water.
- The second safety skills teaches the infant/toddler enter the water and swim limited distances to safety. We teach a basic surface swim with "pop-up" style breathing when the toddler is skill ready.
These skills all take a lot of practice but can be successfully mastered if you pursue continued, qualified instruction. So at what age can they do what? Check out The Swim Professor’s blog for video examples of what toddlers and young children are capable of learning at different ages.
We have found that by eight (8) months, a baby can begin to learn to hold his/her breath and be comfortable enough in the water that in the case of an accidental water entry, it may buy the parent a few valuable extra seconds. At nineteen (19) months, a toddler who has had significant practice time can begin to learn to return to the side of the pool. By twenty-four (24 )months, this skill could be executed with ease.
"We enjoy classes with The Swim Lessons Company because of their effectiveness, but also because they make learning to swim fun for all ages. Each class is carefully designed for the age group of the students. Each lessons uses props, songs, and age appropriate learning techniques, all of which help the children learn to swim. AND . . . the results we've seen are TREMENDOUS!"
Kristie & Ben Jones, Southeast Columbia
Frequently Asked Questions
My pediatrician says I should wait to start until my baby is 4 years old?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its guidance on swimming lessons. In the new policy, the AAP reinforces its existing recommendation that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but the AAP is now more open toward classes for younger children.
What parents should avoid, in our opinion, are the forceful techniques often used in infant survival classes. At the Swim Lessons Company, we would never compromise your child’s safety or emotional well-being by forcing techniques on children at any age. We believe every child can and should learn to swim using child-centered and fundamentally sound natural progressions. We believe that swimming lessons for children as young as 12 months old can be very beneficial, as long the child is taught in a loving manner. Learning to swim does not drown proof anyone nor does it give parents a pass from watching their children closely when in or around the water. Close and constant supervision is a must.
Jim Reiser, Founder of The Swim Lessons Company and Executive Director of Swim Lessons University says, “Each of my three my sons learned to swim with a smile... and so should yours! Protecting our children from the dangers of the water is a serious responsibility that comes with parenting. I personally feel that keeping our children safe around the water is no different than keeping them safe around a busy street. We don’t leave our children alone in the car. We don’t let them go out on a busy street to play! Why would we think of water safety any differently? Learning to swim, like learning to walk, is a life skill every child should learn but it is not a fool-proof way to protect them from harm. When our children are in or around the water, it is still our responsibility to supervise them closely to ensure they are safe at all times.”
What is the best age to start teaching a child to swim?
We believe there are invaluable benefits to starting children as young as 12 months old in our formal lessons. When taught properly, children will not only learn the prerequisite skills needed for formal swimming strokes—they will learn to love the water. Learning how to swim, like mastering any worthwhile skill, is a process, not an event. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. And remember--swimming is the only skill that could save a child’s life.
What do you think about flotation devices?
First, an appropriately-fitting lifejacket should be used for safety any time non-swimmers are in or around the water. Lifejackets save lives. Feel free to contact Jim Reiser for recommendations.
In terms of flotation vests for swimming lessons, we recommend the SwimWays Power Swimmer for children ages 2 and over. Why? It’s a progressive device. Our learn-to-swim professionals can adjust the flotation so that your child has the ability to actually practice swimming skills that he or she could not practice otherwise. It allows the child to feel how the flutter kick actually propels him through the water. It allows the child to start learning his independence in the water, vs. dependence (a dated argument against flotation).
For more information on flotation devices, and learn to swim, check out The Swim Professor’s blog.
If we take a break over the winter, will they forget everything?
No. However, a child's swimming abilities will become "rusty" if you are unable to refresh their skills weekly. What we have observed is that for each month your child is not in the pool, it takes approximately 1 to 2 days to return to their previous level. For example, if you take a 5-month break from swimming, when you first return to the water it may appear that your child is starting from scratch. However, somewhere between the 5th and 10th lesson, you will be amazed at how their swimming abilities begin to return (as long as their lesson experience the previous year was a positive one). Cautious children or those returning from aggressive teaching methods can take much longer. Don't be surprised if children who endured forceful lessons the previous year will not even go near the water. Patience, a supportive atmosphere and a positive attitude on the part of the parent allows the returning student to regain their skills more rapidly.