There is no questioning the importance of swim lessons. But after registration, there are details that help the parent be prepared for his or her role in the class.
It is pretty standard for learn-to-swim programs to encourage parent participation in swim classes for those children under the age of 3 (baby or baby and me classes). Yes – this means that the parent will be in the water with the child not on the pool deck watching.
At this age, the most effective teaching takes place when the swim instructor guides the parent in how to teach the child during the lessons. So baby classes actually teach the parents as much as the child.
There are four very important “rules” that parents should focus on when in baby classes:
- Being comfortable in the water.
- Following the teacher’s guidance.
- Staying in the designated class area.
- Adhering to the swim school’s swim diaper policies.
There are very good reasons behind each of these rules.
Being comfortable in the water show the child how to relax. The child will pick up on the parent’s body language. If mom or dad are relaxed, there is a greater chance that the child will be relaxed and receptive to learning.
Following the teacher’s guidance makes the lesson flow smoothly and makes the child comfortable. Reputable swim schools know what they are doing. They provide extensive training for instructors and follow clear lesson plans. Parents (and children) learn best when parents are attentive to instructors, follow their lead and ask questions throughout lessons.
Staying within the area designated for the class makes everyone’s experience better. Multiple classes can become quite confusing if parents and children stray from the area established by instructors. Obeying boundaries eliminates distractions, allows instructors to make the progress with all students and maintains a safe environment during classes.
Adhering to the swim school’s swim diaper policy is an absolute must. Schools may differ with the details of their standards, but almost all require the use of a swim diaper for children under the age of 3.
When children reach a comfort zone with the water (at about 36 months), parents aren’t required to get in the pool. However, parents are a huge part of the equation even if they are on the pool deck. Parent’s actions from the deck help children (regardless of their age) get the biggest benefits from their swim lessons.
There are four very important “rules” that parents should keep top-of-mind as their children progress through swim levels:
These rules help to shape discipline required to learn swim skills and form a healthy respect for water and enjoy being in and around it.
Consistency. Maintaining consistent attendance is critical to helping children to be successful in learning to swim and to enjoy their lessons. This is particularly critical as children begin their learn-to-swim experience. Consistency allows children to get used to the routine and environment, build trust with their instructor and overcome nervousness they may experience.
Timeliness. Arrive in plenty of time to help children avoid feeling rushed. Rushing and running late sets the stage for stress for parent and child. Remember that parking and changing for lessons takes times. Arriving ahead of time also provides opportunity for children to watch others in their classes – which helps them understand what their lessons are all about – and provides parents with perfect opportunities to point out all the other kids swimming and how much fun they’re having in the pool.
Positivity. Always be positive about the swim lesson and swim experience in the way speech and body language. Even conversations with other parents could be within earshot of a nervous child and undo any previous positive re-enforcement. Turn “Sally doesn’t like swim class” into “Sally just started swim class and she’s working really hard on learning to swim.”
Engagement. Be interactive with instructors that interact with the children. Even if the teacher has back-to-back lessons, there is generally a supervisor or manager accessible to parents for questions about progress. This is also a good time to update instructors of schedule changes or health issues that could impact schedules or lessons. Instructors need to know details that affect the lives of the children they are teaching such as having a new baby in the home or treatment or recovery from an illness.
Above all else, parents should enjoy this time with their children. It doesn’t matter if they are watching from the pool deck, a viewing room or they are participating in the water. Children are amazing at how quickly they can learn swim skills when the lesson plans, instructors and parents provide them with the right tools.