Questions about kids swimming lessons - Bubbablue and me

Swimming lessons for kids – the questions parents have

Over the years, readers have found my blog via different questions, some about swimming lessons for kids. As we’ve had a long swimming journey from baby swimming lessons with Water Babies to toddler swimming, through to faster progress now, there’s plenty of swimming resources if you search for swimming.

I wanted to answer some of the questions here. I’m not a swimming instructor, I’m just an interested parent who’s got experience of 8.5 years of children’s swimming lessons. Working through lessons with a child who started off disliking swimming, then tolerated it, and now loves his swimming lessons.

Here’s my answers to some of the questions parents have asked me about swimming, on or offline.

Questions about kids swimming lessons - Bubbablue and me

When should I start my child swimming?

There’s no specific age. As a baby it’s a great way to get them used to being in the water and enjoying it. This doesn’t need to be lessons, just play. But make sure you’re teaching them safety aspects and getting them used to the water. So many times young toddlers will just leap in before being told to, which is one of the danger areas. Baby swimming when you’re in the pool with them is a great bonding experience too.

Physically, age 6 or 7 is when children start getting stronger and should find it easier to progress, from age 4 or 5, it’s good to start teaching technique. If you leave it too late though, they might get too scared of learning. 

If you’re waiting until they start swimming in school, you might have missed the optimum learning time. Would you really want them to be one of the only children unable to swim in the class.

Can I teach my child to swim without lessons?

Yes. If your child is receptive or wants to learn, it’ll be easier. If your child just wants to play, good luck.  Personally I wanted an expert to teach N as I’m not an expert. I found N was more receptive to lessons once he was going in the pool without me. So if your child isn’t sure about swimming, removing their ‘crutch’, their parent from the lessons, can help. You can find some great tips about taking your baby to the pool online.

What if my child hates the water?

Sometimes kids just aren’t a fan of water. Try rewards for them getting through a session, or try different teachers until you find one who inspires your child.  Swimming instructors are used to different types of children so they’ll have techniques to help them get over it. One day it will click. If they’re really anxious, give lessons a break and do fun swimming instead. Then try lessons again.  Explain to them that they need to learn until they’re a certain standard – give them short goals to achieve and hopefully they’ll realise that the quicker they learn the quicker they won’t need to continue.

Don’t do what my OH has joked about in the past, and just throw them in!

Do I need to wait for my baby to have had his or her jabs before taking them swimming?

The NHS say you don’t have to wait. But it’s best to wait until the 6 week check for new mums to go in the pool with them.

The main issue taking young babies swimming is that they can’t regulate their temperature so need a very warm pool. These can be hard to find.

What do babies and children need to wear swimming?

Babies can be slippery, so using a little baby wetsuit or neoprene vest will help you hold them and keep them a bit warmer. Children in nappies need to wear at least proper swim nappies, some pools (especially for lessons), ask them to be in a double nappy system. So a swim nappy with a neoprene happy nappy on top.

Toddlers and older children can just wear normal swimming costume or trunks once they’re safely potty trained. N likes to wear a rash vest as well.

Can I just leave my child to learn to swim when they go with the school?

You can, but most schools don’t provide many lessons and with the number of children in the pool at once, you’ll be lucky if they get enough help learning to swim. Often children won’t start swimming with school until year 3 or key stage 2.  They’re much better off learning before starting school. We found the fastest progress came once N was doing school lessons as well as his usual lessons.

What age can they go in the pool with without me?

It will depend on the pool and instructor. Our pool takes toddlers from 2 years 9 months for the ducklings class if they’re used to pools already, and this is without the parents.  Some children struggle and cry when they start, and then the parents will occasionally be asked to go in with them until they’re more comfortable. Other swimming schools take children from 3 years.

What are the stages in swimming?

Most swimming schools follow the ASA Learn to Swim stages 1-7. But each instructor and swimming school will follow the levels differently. E.g N’s teacher tends to teach above the levels and won’t move children up until they’re well past the stages. She tends to do the Rainbow distance badges rather than stage checks. But other swim schools strictly follow the stages with progress against the stage marked off online for the parents to log in and check progress.

My child doesn’t seem to be progressing?

Children hit a lot of plateaus with swimming. They progress then stay still for ages, then jump up again. They just need to keep going, or try a different teacher or method of teaching to give them a boost.  Taking them swimming outside of lessons will help, or a 2 week summer holiday with a pool swim each day will probably give them revised confidence for when lessons start back.

My child doesn’t like the teacher?

Try another teacher. The child and teacher need to gel otherwise the child will get bored or muck around and not progress. There’s plenty of classes and different instructors, so a move of class might help. You also need to have a teacher who’s approachable and will give you tips to practice outside of lessons that might help where there’s a plateau, e.g N’s teacher told him breast stroke action exercises to practise at home.

I’m scared of the water and can’t swim. How do I get my child to swim without panicking myself?

For baby and toddler lessons when the adult is in the water, it will always be in the shallow end here you can stand. We never had to swim either. Some of my friends found it helped them with their fear of water because they knew they didn’t want their children to be aware of their own fear.

When should I stop my child’s swimming lessons

It depends what your aim is. Do you want them to be able to swim strongly enough to be able to save themselves if they get into trouble, or do you think they should gain enough technique to be able to maintain their swimming through life.

I agreed with N he could stop at a good level 5 because he was swimming twice a week and would still have another 6 months of school swimming after that. But it’s come round too soon so we’ve agreed to continue his lessons further. When he’s older he might want to do lifeguarding training which provides an option for student jobs during summer holidays. But other children might stop once they can swim their 25 metres  (which is what the government says children should be able to swim by the end of primary school). Bear in mind that many water activities like windsurfing or inflatable courses, ask for people to be able to swim 50 metres to have a go.

Why isn’t my child progressing as fast as his friend?

It’s always frustrating to see other children being moved up earlier than yours, especially when they started at the same time or afterwards. But as with other activities and school, all children develop differently. Some are good academically, others are like fish. Other children might go swimming with family a lot outside school.

When we were in baby and toddler lessons, I was mostly the only mum who took their child swimming. Most other parents in the class were dads. It was noticeable how much different the children with their dads acted in the water, and they all progressed faster. Watching the parents, the dads were more carefree, they made it a lot more fun ‘throwing’ their toddlers around which made the children more confident. There was also more competitive encouragement. N never had that because his dad never went swimming with him. So having children swimming with different people means they learn different things from them, and could help progression. What is learnt in classes might only be the tip of what other children are doing in the pool.

Unless your children are going to be swimming champions, most people are sending them to lessons for safety reasons. So it isn’t a race, and children will learn at their own pace.

Are group lessons or private lessons better?

N has only ever been in group lessons, but there’s no doubt that private lessons should get your child swimming faster than a class of 10 children with 1 teacher. Group lessons can be more fun – they include races and you can see other children demo-ing strokes which makes it easier to learn from what others do.

If you’re not sure about group lessons, ask to see them in action before signing up. Look for a smaller lesson, or one with a couple of teachers in. Remember it’s rare that every week will have everyone turn up to lessons. Group lessons will be a lot cheaper. You can always use private lessons as boosters, or to get them through a problem area if they’re not getting the attention in group class.

I’ll keep adding more questions when I get them, so let me know if there’s any questions you have about swimming lessons for kids.

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  1. I really want to get my son some swimming lessons as it’s such a vital skill. It seems expensive but when you add up the cost of ‘normal swimming’ this seems like a great option. It will help them in future too.

    1. I think it’s great value if it’s just at a local pool, as long as there’s options for different places. Ours is at a private school pool and works out less than £5 a week. It’s a lot cheaper than me taking him when you add in parking at the leisure centre, then £4 for kids and nearly a fiver for adults. It only gets really expensive when you’ve got more than 1 child, or opt for franchised organisations where they might have more than one teacher. I know people who pay more for those teachers than I would pay for a private lesson at the pool we go to.

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