Bean is just finishing up his first week of swim lessons and I’m truly impressed with his progress. I admit, when I was browsing the recreational classes the city teaches each summer, I was pretty shocked they even offered swim lessons for infants as early as 6 months old. I mean, I’ve seen the videos out there of really small infants diving for toys underwater, but I didn’t think those kids were that young. The thought of putting mine underwater at 11 months was something that really cranked up the anxiety. However, I sucked it up and tried it out. I’d rather he be able to navigate the water than drown…even if it means my heart hangs out in the throat every day for 30 minutes.
Despite all that, I truly think this was the best decision for our family and Bean is LOVING it. Here’s what he’s been learning in swim class and why those skills are so beneficial.
Yeah, so, I suppose this is a terrible starter because Bean has NOT mastered this. Thankfully, this activity isn’t essential for water safety, but really works to help the kids get comfortable with the water. If your child is anything like my Bean, I would not wait for the first night of swim lessons to introduce him to the water. Bean had his first experience on the 4th of July and, since it took him a good 1.5 hours to really get comfortable, the first night or two of swim lessons would have been useless if we had waited. In any case, bubbles makes for fun in the beginning.
So, this was my biggest fear with Bean. I mean, I do everything I can not to get water in his face during bath time and you want me to dunk him under the water? And on the first night?! This was the reason Lino was volun-told for swim lessons. When it’s time to submerge, they turn circles and sing for a short song. Then, Lino blows in Bean’s face which makes him instinctively hold his breath. What follows is a very short dunk under the water…and a mini heart attack from mom in the bleachers.
As it turns out, Bean is a freaking champ! He didn’t cough or cry. He actually had fun. They do this a couple times each class, and he’s getting good enough, just after a few days, to be passed to the instructor while under the water. Needless to say, I’m a very proud momma. I also don’t think it’s necessary to point out why this skill is essential…
Another thing they practice in class is kicking off from the wall. Bean gets held legs out front on his tummy, arms on Lino’s chest and they squish up against the wall and practice kicking away from it. This is great fun for Bean. Not only does he feel powerful for pushing both him and his father several feet away from the edge, he gets to to learn how to orient himself in the water to swim properly.
This activity involves the same position as kick off’s and can actually be used right after kicking off the wall. Once they kick off the wall, Lino gently grabs his legs and kicks them up and down. Bean thinks the splashing is great fun and it’s a starting point for teaching him the basics of swimming. I almost cannot believe how much they start learning at so young an age.
I find this skill to be the most important as it can be the life saver in a pool accident. If Bean learns how to float on his back, and he were to fall in a pool of water, he could roll himself over and float versus drown. The downside to this is that Bean isn’t particularly fond of this yet. I think much of that has to do with how late his lessons are. We go after dinner from 6:10p to 6:40p and normally he’s gearing down by then. Thus, laying back in the water and singing a song reminds him of how sleepy he is…so he fights this one a bit. We will have to try this one later on our own, during the daytime.
I call this one wall walking because I really have no better term. This activity involves teaching them how to hang on to the side of the pool and use their hands to move them down the edge of the pool. They do this by throwing toys nearby and moving their hands along the edge towards the toys. This doesn’t seem like a big thing, initially, but if your kid was ever to fall in the pool and managed to float his way to the edge, he would have to know how to wall walk to get to the steps or he would be stuck. Definitely necessary.
This one is lots of fun for the kids that can stand. Since Bean isn’t walking just yet, this activity is not super helpful for him yet. He gets to sit on the edge and Lino helps him jump from the sit position into the water. This is a good skill because it helps prevent them from being scared to get in. The more comfortable they are falling in, the less likely they would be to panic in the event of an accident. However, the potential downside is that they think it’s fun and will head straight for a pool if given the chance.
Using a Ladder
So, Bean cannot do this part yet as he isn’t walking, but the other kids in his class are able to start learning the ladder. Obviously, this teaches them another way to get out of the pool if there are no stairs. I suspect Bean will learn this better next year.
Overall, I highly recommend swim lessons for your little one. It truly helps them get used to the water and learn the essentials. Even though Lino and I both know how to swim, we wouldn’t have thought of doing many of the activities they are learning because they already seem so natural to us. Most of the time when people think of learning to swim, they just think of teaching the different strokes or how to get from one side to the other. The other stuff is left for you to figure out on your own.
My goal is to have Bean swimming without the use of water wings in the next year or two. Maybe, if we practice enough, we won’t even need them at all, but we will play that by ear.
How did you teach your little to swim? What do you think of swim classes for infants/toddlers? Let me know in the comments below.