When to Begin Swim Lessons               

The baby has little perception of water other than the womb and his bath and the experiences were probably warm and positive. The infant has a very good chance to develop a good, healthy relationship with the water (Langendorfer and Bruya 1995). The early sensory experience of the skin coming in contact with the water aid in the child’s overall organization of the nervous system. The more stimulation of nerves the child experiences the more interconnections and neuro-pathways develop in the brain cells (Miller and Melamed 1989). This explains why many studies have shown that children who have experienced early stimulation in water training develop earlier in many different ways.



Early Water Stimulation Research

In countries such as Germany and Finland, studies have shown that children who swim early in life develop earlier physically.

Scientific studies of infant swimming at the Swimming Institute of Munich Germany (1970 – 1974) and at the German Sports College Cologne (1974 – 1976) have shown that early stimulation develops the child in three key areas - physically, mentally and emotionally. As compared with a control group, which did not take year-round lessons, the children who swam consistently from infancy were significantly stronger and more coordinated. The children also scored higher for intelligence and problem-solving, which carried over into excellence and academic achievement.

Emotionally, children who swam year round from infancy were found to be more self-disciplined with greater self-control with an elevated confidence to succeed. From consistent goal setting and achievement, they rated high in self-esteem. Finally, the children in the “swimming group” were more independent and adjusted better to social situations than the subjects who belonged in the control groups (Federal Minister for Education and Science 1979).



Earlier Is Usually Better

          We believe that children are born with a love for the water. The younger child is less influenced by negative attitudes. Parents who begin their child later on find it harder to get the child to feel comfortable on his back in the water. It often takes longer for the child to get use to the teacher, the water, all the people and to submersion. An older toddler often times has reached a “clingy” stage and is resistant to leaving the comfort of Mom or Dad’s shoulder. It is easier for an infant to become accustomed to the water environment.  However, it is better to start swim lessons when a child is a toddler or older than not at all (Rosengren 2004).


Why Do Some Children Cry?

          Children do not all react the same way when introduced to new situations. Swim lessons are no exception. Some toddlers explode with squeals and splashes while others shrink and cling. If your child seems intimidated by this new environment, it is very normal. New sights, new smells, new people that often over stimulate your child’s nervous system. When he gets use to the new environment he will relax and look forward to his new adventure. (Langendorfer and Bruya 1995).

          If your child cries during his lesson, it does not necessarily mean he is frightened of the water. It is usually some other factor that is upsetting him (Whitehead and Curtis 1983). Children can vary their moods quite quickly, they can laugh and cry within a short period. Small children can stop crying in a second, if distracted. All this can and will happen during a swim lesson just as it does in your home environment.

Hunger, boredom and fatigue are often the reasons for a child’s mood swings. A different time might change the entire experience. A hungry and tired child is much more sensitive to changes and to new environments than a child who is rested and full (Rosengren 2004).

          If you are ill at ease in the water or unsure of situation, your child will sense your feelings. He may manifest his stress by crying or clinging. Lighten your mood, bounce, play, sing and try to avoid any negative thoughts (Whitehead 1978).

          A child will often cry when he sees his Mother (or Father) sitting outside the pool. He becomes frustrated because he wants the security and comfort of being held by Mom (or Dad), so he cries. If the mother (father) is out of sight for a lesson or two the child will often calm down and become interested in the activities all around him. Periods of clinginess are normal. It is so much easier to be held rather than to try new things (Whitehead and Curtis 1983).

Being aware of your child’s natural developmental stages will help you conquer feelings of discouragement. If you quit swimming because of your child’s dissatisfaction, you merely strengthen his reluctance to ever enter swim lessons again. It won’t magically get better in a year or so. You need to give your child the closeness and security he needs right now in this new situation. Hang in there with your child.  Reward any little success, so that his positive experiences out weigh the negative. Keep encouraging your child to experience these new activities and environment. Your persistence will pay off  and you and your child will enjoy many years of water fun in the future (Whitehead and Curtis 1983).


Why Swim Year Round

          Many swim schools have early childhood swim programs. There are many advantages to organized courses. A group feeling builds among the participants and your child will soon feel at home in the class setting. He will get use to strangers and mingling with other children. His social confidence will be strengthened as he is exposed to  new environments and tries new things.  However, it is important to have a continuity in swimming sessions since a small child can easily forget what he has learned if he swims less than once a week or takes long breaks in between sessions. Swimming is a lifelong skill that improves with practice. Year round swimming is necessary to allow a child to build on his skills without regression found in summer programs (Whitehead 1978).



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