I decided to start swimming lessons so early on (the Tiny Dancer was 8 months when she started) because we have a pool in the backyard and I thought swimming lessons would be the best first line of defense. Regardless of whether you have a pool, it’s likely that your child will be near one at one point so it’s a great to instill water safety from a young age. I’ve read that the earlier you start, the easier it is for the babies to get acclimated to the water. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that they were lounging in amniotic fluid so being in water is natural for babies.
I’ve noticed that some kids that start later as toddlers are more afraid of the water. The Tiny Dancer has been comfortable in the pool since day one. I thought she would be because she has always loved bath time. If swimming lessons are not feasible, bath time is a great way to start getting kids comfortable in water, having water on their face and head, etc.
I had the good fortune of living in a town where there was not 1, but 2 swimming schools. Before I enrolled in one I did my research. First, I read the reviews of other parents on Yelp.com. I find reading reviews immensely helpful. You have to take them with a grain of salt though. There are always going to be good and bad reviews so it’s all how you weigh them. Second, I visited both facilities. One school even let us take a trial class which I found extremely helpful because you can meet the instructors, get a feel for the lessons, the pool and the other kids. After considering the reviews, the school visits, schedules and pricing, we made our decision. I chose the American Swim Academy and am very happy with my choice. If you are in the Bay Area there are 4 ASA locations: Fremont, Dublin, Livermore and Newark.
If you are not in the Bay Area, here are some things to consider when looking at schools:
1. Water Temperature - Should be at least 90 degrees – like bath water. When I told the Tiny Dancer’s pediatrician that the baby was taking swimming lessons the first thing she asked about was water temperature. Make sure the water’s not cold!
2. Parent Participation – As infants (and at the ASA until the child is 35 months) parent participation is required. If you don’t want to get in the water, this may not be for you. But, it’s always best to lead by example, no?
3. Class Size – Classes should be small. No more than 4-5 kids per instructor.
4. CPR Certification – All instructors should be CPR certified. Safety first!
5. Classes Offered Year Round – The best way to learn is by repetition so it’s best if classes are offered throughout the year.
6. Classes Grouped by Age & Ability – Make sure that your child will be in a class with kids in similar age and levels.
7. No Sink or Swim! – Throwing your kid in the water is not a good method of training – ever!
8. Class Content – At the infant level, classes should center on babies getting comfortable in water and water safety. Lessons should include: going under water (gradually- first to the chin, then to the nose, etc.), floating on stomach and back (while being held), holding the wall, going to the wall, blowing bubbles, kicking and play time.
9. Viewing Area – A place for family members to sit and watch is nice.
10. Cleanliness – Is the place clean? Make sure it is before enrolling!
11. Facilities – Check out the bathroom, dressing room and shower situation.
12. Individual Attention and Evaluation – Make sure your child gets some individual attention from the instructor and is evaluated individually not as a class.
I hope this helps! I’m really happy with our decision to enroll the Tiny Dancer in swimming lessons and just registered for the next session. She loves the lessons and it’s nice quality time for us to spend together.