Swimming experts recommend to start children young and these days many parents do!
The reason is, learning to swim must always start off by getting used to water and learning to relax in it. The younger a child is, the easier the familiarisation to water will be and ideally, parents should introduce their kids to water before they are 3 years old.
Humans can only get used to water through regular exposure. To build your child’s water-confidence, especially if you have a toddler or a pre-schooler, you need to provide them with plenty of opportunities to play in the water.
Between 0 to 3 years of age, you can help to boost your child’s water confidence by doing fun and safe activities during bathtime or in a swimming pool.
Family swimming sessions and ‘Parent & Child’ swimming classes are excellent ways to build your little one’s water confidence in swimming pools.
If you let your toddler regularly play in a swimming pool- with our without lessons- by age 3, your child can normally jump in the pool and do the basics like kicking legs and climbing out of the water.
As a parent, you could have some peace of mind if your child can do the very basics in water. Most parents really want their toddlers to be able to survive an accidental fall in the water and climb out of the water by themselves.
That’s why introducing your child to water earlier rather than later, is highly recommended. But, what should be the next step?
Introducing your child to water in early years has many advantages which are well documented on my other blogs. But, swimming is far more than just surviving an accidental fall in a swimming pool.
There are different stages that a child has to go through before becoming a competent swimmer. After buliding water-confidence, the next stage is teaching the basic technique. This can start between ages of 3 to 4 years old.
The reason is that kids need the right level of muscular strength to exert force against water when they push and pull the water during the strokes. Also, swimming involves the body having to work against the resistance of water, thus having a good body awareness, which meaning knowing where the body is in water, is a must.
The length of time needed for a child to learn the basics or the fundamentals of swimming varies from one child to another but, in my experience a pre-schooler (3 years old) who never had swimming lessons, but starts off as a happy and water-confident child, can take at least 5 to 6 terms (each term being 12 lessons) of group lessons to get truly comfortable in the water. At that point, they should be able to do all the basics with ease and swim for a short distance.
A child who has done swimming lesson consistently as a baby and a toddler, still needs at least 2 to 3 terms of lessons to learn the fundamentals properly.
If a child has started swimming as a baby and has lessons consistently in a programme that also has stroke development phase (like ours), we expect children to swim front crawl and backstroke for 25 meters (25 m of Backstroke+25 m of Front crawl) easily by age 5 to 6 years.
The skills required to swim with proper technique are complex.
So, if your child is very water confident and can happily jump into the water and pick up sinkers from the bottom of the pool, this a brilliant start. However, please be mindful, it doesn’t necessarily mean kids can shortcut the fundamentals and jump into learning the technique and breeze through them.
Not knowing the fundamentals will catch up with everybody later on during the stroke development phase.
Trawling the internet and Youtube to find out how good a toddler or a pre-schooler should swim, may not offer you a realistic picture. One of the disadvantages of the internet is that it can supply us with whatever we are looking for: good or bad, true or false-so don’t believe everything you read or see.
If you see a child on the internet who looks to be only a toddler, and ‘accidentally’ falls in a swimming pool and manages to swim the length of a pool before getting out, please be mindful, even if what you see is completely authentic, it is very rare. The fact is a vast majority of 3-year-olds cannot swim independently for a considerable distance without using floats or adult support.
No, it is not. Actually, in most swim schools including ours, between age 3 to 4 years, teachers start moving away from allocating most of the lesson time to playing and focus more on teaching technique by adding more structure to lessons. But, it will be only possible if a pre-schooler is already water confident. So, please follow the experts’ advice and start them young.
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