Swimming for Preschoolers
The sights and sounds of children swimming are one of summer's greatest pleasures. (And really, what could be cuter than your little one's belly in a bathing suit?) However, there's an undeniable danger when you mix kids and water: Every year in the United States, at least 300 children 5 years old or younger drown in home swimming pools. And most of those drownings occur under the supervision of one or more adults.
So while it is important to keep a watchful eye on children near a body of water, it is equally important to make sure that they are comfortable in the water and respectful of its dangers. Swimming lessons will give them both the familiarity and the survival skills they need.
According to Mark Schubert, USA Swimming National Team coach, you should start teaching your child to swim as soon as he or she is potty-trained.
"My kids learned earlier, before they were 2 years, because we had a pool in our back yard, so it became incredibly important to provide them with basic safety training," says Schubert. "When children are that young, they learn important safety skills, such as the ability to float or roll over on their back and to grab the side of the pool."
Schubert also recommends beginning swim lessons when your children are young because they will most likely not have developed a fear of the water. Start with professional lessons from a certified instructor who knows how to approach children.
"Although a lot of people have learned to swim from their parents, if you want your child to learn properly and to be sure the right safety training is provided, you are best served by going to a professional," Schubert says. He also suggests providing lessons at least once a week, on a regular basis.
When looking for a learn-to-swim program for your children, make sure the instructors are certified. Also check for a favorable instructor-to-student ratio. The ideal number is six students or less per instructor. A set progressive curriculum should be in place to help your child move along in class. You can call your local USA Swimming club and ask for a referral to a safe, effective, learn-to-swim program for your children.
Schubert stresses the importance of swimming for both children and adults, for physical fitness and safety.
"Teaching your kids to swim could be a life-or-death decision," he says. "There are thousands of accidents each year, especially in the summer, which could be avoided simply by teaching children how to swim."