Very often, after a term or two of swimming lessons, parents start asking their kid’s swim teacher this question:‘when is my child going to swim?’. Although there are so many ways that people imagine and define ‘swimming’, normally what most parents mean by ‘swimming’ is when their kids can move their arms, kick their legs and breathe with ease as they travel in water. This is ‘swimming with technique’.
Over the past 8 years, at Blue Wave Swim School, we’ve been getting this type of questions repeatedly, specially from parents who come to our ‘Parent & Child’ classes and those who bring their pre-schoolers to our lessons. So, here’s our answer:
While children can learn to move in water and become confident in it, they cannot start learning the basic technique till they are around 4 years of age.
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 resistance of the water, thus a good awareness of where the body is in water is a must.
Although baby and toddler swimming lessons improve children’s water-confidence and body awareness greatly, kids don’t really learn the technique and strokes in these type of classes.
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 of swimming which are breath control, balance and buoyancy properly and without parental support.
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 back stroke for 25 meter (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 water and pick up sinkers from the bottom of the pool, this a brilliant start.
However, being water-confident doesn’t necessary 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.
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