8 Tips for a Successful First Swim Lesson

Infant and toddler swim lessons are not only a great bonding activity for the whole family, they also teach children water safety, competence and confidence.

Can’t wait to get started? Most swim schools recommend waiting until your baby is 6 months old at the time of their first lesson. Not only are infants that age still very comfortable in the water as it feels natural to them, but they also possess sufficient head control and the ability to regulate their body temperature which makes it the perfect time to get your little one into the pool. 

If you are the mommy of an older baby or toddler perhaps swim lessons haven’t been on your radar – but now invitations for summer pool parties are pouring in, and you are worried about little feet on wet surfaces close to the edges of 8 foot deep pools. 

Whether you have a baby who is still a few weeks or months shy of the half birthday mark or a toddler about to embark on their first water adventure, follow the tips below to make sure that first swim lesson is a success.

1. Build positive associations with water

The more comfortable children are in the pool, the more enjoyable your first lesson is going to be for both you and your little one. You can start building positive associations with water from the time they are teeny tiny by making bath time fun. Add toys and allow plenty of time for play and splashing around. Wading pools for older babies and toddlers are also a fun way to introduce water play.

2. Let them get wet

Even if your first instinct is to shield your baby’s face during bath time – don’t. Let them get used to having water on their face in a safe environment where you can reassure them. Pouring water over their head for the first time may surprise them for a second – make sure you react in a positive manner; if you smile, chances are baby will smile right back.

3. Practice a countdown

1-2-3? Ready-set-go? Whatever you choose, be consistent.

Establishing a countdown will help your baby understand that something is about to happen – whether it’s getting into cold water, being turned over to float on their back or water being sprinkled on their head. Help them brace themselves to avoid surprises that might upset them.

4. Do your research

Finding a swim school you are comfortable with is key to making lessons a success.

Start online by searching for schools in your area, have a look around their website and read online reviews. Once you pick a favorite, visit the facilities and talk to the staff and teachers. Find out about their mission and teaching methods. Ask about their policies, for example: teacher to student ratios, length of sessions, rules around diapering, make up policies and no show fees. Most schools will let you watch a class or even attend a trial class free of charge.

5. Choose a class that fits into your child’s schedule

Is your scheduled class right before your baby’s afternoon feeding or in the middle of nap time? Bad idea. You want your baby fed, awake and happy so they can fully enjoy the class.

6. Purchase appropriate swim wear

Most pools require infants and children who are not potty-trained to wear disposable and/or reusable swim diapers, but also consider buying swim trunks and a swim shirt to avoid your little one getting too cold too quickly. This also applies to heated indoor pools as little swimmers will alternate between spending time in and out of the water during class. 

7. Arrive extra early

Finding a parking spot, checking in, changing yourself, changing baby, and quick snack or bottle top up… After several lessons you’ll be in and out in no time, but for your first lesson allot plenty of time before class starts to prepare yourself and baby. You don’t want to feel rushed, and nothing is worse than an activity that was supposed to be fun turning into a stressful experience.

8. Ask a friend to come along

Shared experiences are double the fun, right? Consider bringing daddy, a friend or family member along for this unique first. They can help you haul the car seat and fifty pounds of stuff (you know it’s true); they can keep an eye on baby while you change in and out of your swimsuit, hold the towels when you get out of the pool and take Instagram-worthy pictures of your little love having the time of their life.


Remember that every child is different and while some kids completely embrace their first swim lesson, others may need a little time to get used to the new environment and strange sensations that come with being in a pool for the first time. Above all, remember to have fun and enjoy this amazing bonding experience with your child.

Want more tips for introducing your child to the water? Check out How To: Introduce Your Child to a Swimming Pool.  

Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones, Nicole Sudduth, Philms and Ashley Sisk

 

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Nicole Sudduth

Nicole, a native German, moved to Georgia in 2011 where she now lives with her husband, soon-to-be bilingual baby boy and two crazy puppies. She is a working mommy whose goal it is to make her sweet boy laugh out loud at least once a day. She is passionate about ‘bringing back the village’, enjoys traveling and singing very loudly in her car, and is otherwise into To Do-lists, Excel sheets and other nerdery.

Comments (3)

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    Melissa

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    I found that even with the swim trunks and rash shirt, my son still was shivering in no time and we would have to cut our time short. I found a baby wetsuit that keeps him super warm and its completely adjustable so it grows with him for a while, and it was under $40, including shipping so it didn’t break he bank. I have no affiliation besides being a customer but figured I would share my knowledge. The company website is warmbelly.com. I don’t know if it can be purchased locally as I bought mine online.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Nicole Sudduth

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      That’s a great point. Thank you for the recommendation!

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Megan

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      Hi Melissa,
      Just an FYI, most wet or dry suits are made up of neoprene, which is a thick foam material containing small “gas pockets” and is designed to insulate people and keep them warm. Neoprene adds a degree of buoyancy. I’ve seen many children (and adults!) who have been efficient swimmers while wearing a wetsuit, and then when they are taken off, they sink.

      (Many triatheletes say that wearing a wetsuit in races is their “trick” to having good swim times because it really helps with bouyancy. http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=231003)

      If you’re using a wet suit for your son, I suggest (as a swim lesson trainer for the past 15 years) taking the last 5 minutes or so of every class and practicing back floats and front floats without the wetsuit, just so your child can experience floating without the “help” of a wetsuit. Thanks so much for your comment- I also love Warm Belly and have had many clients who have used them on their children. 🙂

      Reply

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