Your Child’s First Swimming Lesson (And How Not To Freak Out About It)
Before the Class
It’s important to get your child excited about their first proper swimming lesson. This begins – of all places – in the bath! Bath time for kids aged 2+ is a great opportunity to get them used to being in water. Splashing them gently in the face or pouring water over their head will ensure they’re used to the feeling of being splashed – and could help avoid an in-pool meltdown!
Go it Alone
Though not strictly necessary, I really would encourage you to take your child to the pool before you sign them up for lessons. Even if they never leave your arms, you’ll have begun the process of familiarising them with an environment that can be quite intimidating. The noise, the smell, the changing rooms – it adds up to a daunting experience. Going with you will help your child to realise that swimming pools are fun places to spend time!
It’s Good to Talk
Talking with your child about swimming is the best way to get them excited about lessons. You can read books (shameless plug to my pre-school swimming book) and talk to them about all the activities you can do in the water; from snorkelling to waterslides! It’s also important to talk about the fun that elder siblings, cousins or friends have in the pool. FOMO can be a great motivator!
The Big Day
The Right Stuff
It may seem obvious but packing (and checking) the essentials for going to your first lesson can really help to make the whole process a lot easier on the day. In addition to a swimming costume, goggles, towel and shampoo for your little one, I’d recommend bringing your own swimming kit just in case. I’d also bring a book or tablet – parental poolside relaxing isn’t just for holidays!
Food, Glorious Food!
Eating before swimming is the kind of historic discussion I don’t want to wade into (pun intended), but I will say that eating an hour before the lesson is probably best. It’ll give your child time to digest their meal, whilst giving you another chance to chat about swimming and how much fun it’s going to be. It’ll also make the process of actually getting to the pool easier and more organised. Lastly; TAKE SNACKS! Whether for the ravenous child that’ll greet you after the lesson, or for enjoying with your book/Netflix, snacks at the pool are always a winner.
Getting to Know You
The first lesson will be all about getting your child comfortable in the water and familiar with their teacher. Children will most likely be very shy at first and may even get a bit upset about being in the pool without their parents. It is a big step in their overall development but will ultimately make them more confident and independent by the time they start school.
Don’t be surprised if you’re also a little bit anxious on the day! It’s perfectly normal and it’s something I’ve seen countless times over the years. Taking your child to swimming lessons is one of the best gifts you can give as a parent – and they’re in very good hands, so try not to worry.
After the Class
One of the benefits that I hear time and again is that kids tend to go to sleep more easily after swimming. This is obviously a HUGE plus for parents…but please don’t hold me to it!
Though it might not be the sort of class you’d expect to get homework from, swimming teachers (myself included) do often ask kids to work on things at home. For example, if a child found it difficult to do somersaults, I would encourage them to practice at home in an open space. I always go with motto “If they can’t do the action out of the water, they won’t be able to do it correctly in the pool”.
Don’t be surprised if, after the first lesson, your child tells you that they don’t like swimming and don’t want to go again. This is very common, but it’s really important to persevere. In my experience, it isn’t that kids don’t like swimming but just that they’re scared of trying new things. Once they’re comfortable in the pool they really do love it.
The second person that needs to persevere is you. Research suggests that children are being taken out of lessons before being able to complete basic swimming techniques, so I urge you to stick with it. It really will be worth it in the long run.
Your child’s first swimming lesson should be as fun, special and memorable as their first day at school. Whilst there might be nerves (from both you and your child), the key thing to remember is how fun swimming can be and what a vital skill it is.
Michael Harkins is an award-winning swimming instructor with over 10 years of experience teaching children and adults across Scotland. He is the founder of Turtle Pack, the author of The Adventures of Tiki the Turtle book series for pre-school children and runs the Turtle Pack Swim Academy – West Lothian.