How to Teach Kids to Swim Safely

Learning to swim used to be a matter of heading for the nearest water hole in the countryside and jumping in. When our country was mostly rural, swimming was an inexpensive and convenient way to have fun during those long, hot summer days.

Today, however, a majority of us live in urban areas where there are no ponds or streams. And our busy schedules often keep us from taking time to enjoy natural waterways, like lakes or rivers. Consequently, some families have built-in or above-ground swimming pools in their back yards as a cool entertainment diversion for the family. Those without pools often allow their children to swim with friends who do have them.

If your child doesn’t know how to swim, or if you would like to learn, here are some accessible ways to get swimming lessons:

  1. Don’t jump into a pool and try to learn on your own. Especially while alone, you could easily end up drowning. Most pools do not have slanted sides like many ponds do. The result is that once in, you may have trouble climbing out again. Always swim with a friend, and get lessons before attempting to swim on your own.
  2. Check your child’s school or a neighboring school. Many schools have a swimming pool built into the school as part of the physical education program. Some offer swimming lessons to help defray the cost of maintaining a pool and to build community relations. Find out if there is a natatorium in your area that offers memberships or swimming lessons for adults and kids.
  3. Ask at the community college or university. If there is a center of higher learning nearby, many have a swimming pool or connections with organizations that offer swimming privileges in their pool. Find out if this is the case with a college campus in your county or part of the state, and ask about lessons for those who don’t know how to swim. You can also check the yellow pages for public swimming pools and lessons.
  4. Visit the YWCA. The Young Women’s (or Men’s) Christian Association is a community organization that typically offers a variety of health and education programs to local residents. Year-round swimming lessons are usually available to centers with a pool, often at a low cost, especially with family or individual memberships. Classes range from beginners to moderate and even advanced levels, with one for mothers and infants between six and twelve months of age. You can progress from one to the next as your skills improve.
  5. Get private lessons. Many swimming instructors will provide private instruction at your home if you have a pool, or at the center where they teach. Be sure the instructor is certified in life-saving techniques. Don’t try to do tasks you are uncomfortable with, as you may panic and take in water or sink. If private lessons work out well, you may decide to join a class later.

Learning to swim is a life-long skill that everyone should know. Don’t wait another year to get started. Find a club, organization, or class that offers instruction at the level you need, and sign up before they fill up!

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