Swimming Lessons: What to Expect

This is the last post in a series about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about swimming. I have to say, I’m feeling rather well versed in all things aquatic, for that’s where we’ve been spending most of our free time this month. Here are the last few questions I asked Javier Urias, Aquatics Director at the Ft. Benjamin Harrison YMCA.

What to Expect from Your Child’s First Set of Swim Lessons: When I asked Javier about what to expect during your child’s first set of swim lesssons, he told me the #1 thing they will focus on is the bob. As in, bobbing up and down in the water.

Bobs! We always start with bobs in the water. A bob is when you submerge your face in the water and blow bubbles. This is such an importance skill to learn and is the foundation of swimming. If a child can put their face in the water and feels comfortable with water getting in their face, ears and is relaxed then this opens up the opportunity for you to start teaching them to float. Once we are able to teach a child to float on their stomach and back then we are in business! Swimming is nothing more that pushing your floating body through the water. Bobs, floating and basic water orientation are the goals for a child in their first ever swim lessons.
In hindsight, the next question  I asked is like the question I was asked the most when I was teaching, just substitute the word “reading” for “swimming” — When Will My Child REALLY Be Swimming? Just as I always diplomatically answered that question, Javier responded:

It really depends on the child and the frequency of lessons. I’ve trained 4 year old kids to swim in kid triathlons! I try to tell parents all the time to think about swimming the same way you think about teaching your child to walk. I always say, “you don’t teach your child to walk in 7, 30min sessions” the more you send your child to swim lessons the faster they will learn. The more they take lessons the more refined their strokes become.

MaM has really improved her swimming technique during her three week session at the Ft. Ben YMCA. She’s learned the names of several swimming terms, she’s learned how to tread water efficiently, and she’s been introduced to three swimming strokes. I have a feeling she’ll be swimming laps in no time.

It’s not too late to swim this summer! There are still classes forming at YMCAs around town! Check out the list of Youth Swim classes (hit the back button for different age groups) and sign up for some end of summer fun!

Thanks again to Javier for answering all of my questions, to Brian at the Ft. Ben Y for teaching MaM this summer, and the Greater YMCA of Indianapolis for sponsoring this series. It’s been fun reporting on this classic summer activity!


Learning to Swim: Deciding on Lessons

When I signed MaM up for swimming lessons last year, I shopped by price, location, and availability. We settled on the pool closest to our house, which happened to have reasonably priced lessons at a time we could commit to. With all of the choices out there, here are a few factors to consider when signing your child up for swimming lessons:

Inside v. Outside: One thing I did not foresee last summer- at least one thunderstorm per week in the month of July. Her three week session got extended to six, and they just squeezed in the last lessons the week before school started. This year, MaM is taking her lessons inside at the Fort Ben YMCA. Weather, except for lightning/tornado warnings, is not an issue.

Time of Day: I knew we’d have to do lessons this year on non-day camp days. There was no way I was going to attempt to get someplace in the evening on a regular basis on my two work days each week. We ended up choosing lessons around noontime. A friend of mine learned the hard way the morning swim lessons in June may not be the way to go- the water for the parent/child class was COLD at 9am!

Something to keep in mind: Distractions. Last summer, the outdoor pool was closed except for the class being taught. This summer, MaM’s lessons are happening next to another group lesson, a water aerobics class and an open swim. There’s a lap pool across the way, and there’s music on the entire time. She doesn’t seem to mind, but for some kids, that might be too much stimuli.

Size of Group: Most places offer group lessons, semi-private, and private lessons. Group lessons are the most common, and many kids are served well by the positive peer pressure presented in a group lesson format. Your child may not try tread water for 30 seconds with you, but with a few friends, motivated by an instructor, it could totally happen. The YMCA keeps a ratio of 1:5 for kids ages 3-5, and aims for 1:8 in the 6-12 age group. Semi-private guarantees a smaller group, and private means it’s 1:1 instruction. I asked Javier Urias, aquatics director at the Fort Ben Y when private lessons might be needed. He said that it will depend on the child, but that some children need more individualized attention. He likened it to hiring a math tutor- sometimes, your child just needs that extra time. (True story: I had private lessons at my hometown Y waaayyy back in the day so I could pass my Girl Scout swim test and swim in the deep water!)

MaM is halfway through her four week course, and is having a great time. Today she swam across our neighborhood pool, which just wowed me. It’s amazing how fast kids pick things up with some practice!

Disclosure: This is the third in a series of posts about the program offerings through the  Greater Indianapolis YMCA. MaM is being provided swimming lessons in exchange for these posts.