The Lounge Room 03-Jan-2013
Learn to Swim - TIPS
No matter whether it’s fresh, salt or chlorinated, being able to swim, and enjoy the water to its full capacity, is not only a rite of passage for every Australian child – it’s a way of life!
Learning and knowing how to swim, is the most wonderful gift any parent could offer their child. Not only can it help save lives, it will assist children, in their social and physical development.
As they move through the classes, it can strengthen the bond between parent and child, and can enhance a child’s concentration, behavior and physical coordination as they develop new skills, and learn new abilities.
In turn their confidence should improve, which is wonderful for their wellbeing as they grow up, interact with others, and face new challenges.
To avoid negative associations, children should never be forced into lessons, especially if they are genuinely afraid of the water.
However, it is a necessary and potentially life saving skill, so should be an ability they learn as soon as possible, under the guidance of a qualified teacher and a swim school registered with Swim Australia.
So, when should ‘formal’ lessons start? There are a few different guidelines and opinions. However, the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA) recommends infants can start a formal program at four months of age, enough time to allow a medical history to develop, the infant’s immune system to strengthen, and bonding to occur with the primary caretaker.
After four months, lessons in a gentle and developmentally appropriate program can, and should be started right away.
Some tips on ‘re-introducing’ your child to fun water play include:
- Having fun in a sprinkler, splashing in puddles, playing with toys in a wading pool, dipping your feet into the surf, splashing while in the bath, or just sitting in still water and gently introducing droplets at a time – these are great ways to introduce the water.
- While in the bath, watch ‘ducky’ go under the water, then come back up happy and safely; he might even shoot out a little spray of water for extra fun.
- Learning the cue words of, the “child’s name”, followed by the words, “ready, go”. This is followed by a soft drizzle or splash of water over their heads. The baby will learn pretty quickly they need to close their eyes and take a breath.
- When commencing lessons, get to the pool early so the child can get used to the centre, and watch others enjoy the class.
- Use the correct swimming gear, and allow your child time to practice wearing their new additions.
To ensure your child gains the best swim school experience possible, parents should consider the visual stimulus in and around the swim centre, staff approachability and connection with the children, and the applied swim program.
To help this decision, Swim Australia provides three levels of recognition for Swim Schools in its networks – Registered, Accredited, and Awards of Excellence.
This allows those schools - as well as interested parents and carers - the opportunity to showcase and be acknowledged by others, into the amount of effort, professionalism and safety procedures put in place to reach those standards. There are many swim schools across the country accredited with Swim Australia, so to find one close to you or to learn more about this recommended qualification process, please check out www.swimaustralia.org.au.
However, not all schools operate this way. Some tips to consider when choosing a swim school:
- Is the centre and its staff appropriately qualified and accredited by a reputable authority, for example Swim Australia?
- Does the centre have a good reputation – whether through friends or online?
- Is the swim school welcoming, friendly, and are the staff approachable?
- Is the centre well maintained, are the facilities, pool and equipment clean?
- Is the air and water temperature comfortable for your child?
- Is there adequate spectator room?
- Will the classes cater for your child and their needs?
- Is the curriculum developmentally appropriate, allowing for children to progress at their own rate - eg, smaller class numbers, and short lessons no longer than 30 minutes for youngsters?
- Does the centre have flexibility in rescheduling classes, and are the class times appropriate for your child?
- Does the class encourage parental involvement? Babies need a parent/carer in the water providing physical and emotional support, until around 2 or 3 years of age.
- Does the swim school offer water safety education material for parents?