If you have been postponing signing your child up for swim lessons, or need to find a program that is a better fit for him or her, keep in mind that participating in swim lessons can save a young person's life. According to a May 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day two children under the age of 14 years drown - and drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages one to 14 years. The good news is, according to the same report, participation in a formal swimming lesson program can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children ages one to four.
How to Shop For the Right Swim Lesson Program for Your Child
There are an abundance of swim lesson resources on the Eastside, including classes and one-on-one instruction in facilities from health clubs to private homes. Michael Dilley is the Washington Territory Aquatics Specialist with the American Red Cross. Red Cross Water Safety Instructors teach classes in Sammamish at the . He has been teaching Red Cross programs for swimming, lifeguarding and First Aid CPR/AED basic and instructor classes for over 40 years. He suggested that parents who are shopping for swim lessons take a look at the pool. “See how the water looks, watch how well the staff supervises the swimmers and ask other parents how they like the staff and the facility. Also ask if the instructors are trained in a nationally-recognized program, such as the American Red Cross,” he said.
Mel Roberts is the Coaches Education Chairman, All American Clearinghouse and the President Elect of the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association (NISCA). Roberts said some of the key things to look for when shopping for swim lessons is a low student-to-teacher ratio. “One instructor can effectively teach about six or seven students. For younger children, ages three to five, the ratio needs to be closer to three or four students per instructor,” he said.
Roberts also encouraged people to examine the pool as “the environment can greatly affect the learning process. Is the facility clean and inviting as you enter? Is it well maintained and taken care of? Are there other activities going on at the same time as the lessons that could be a distraction? And what is the temperature of the water? If the water is too cold, the child will only be thinking about (that) when they get to get out, instead of learning how to swim,” he said.
Roberts said it's good for parents to see if the instructors are professional and mature, start and end lessons on time and devote their attention to their students in class. Also worth remembering: Do instructors keep children actively involved in learning activities during the entire class? Do they have learning plans and objectives for their classes? And are they willing to spend a little time after class to help students having a difficult time?
Vera Garibaldi is the director of the Waterbabies Aquatic Program, based in Bellevue, with lessons offered in Sammamish at the . She encouraged parents to observe a class and ask lots of questions before choosing a swim program. “Take a look at the program and the teacher your child will be paired with. What reputation does the program have in the community? Do they adhere to a code of ethics and practices spelled out by a national aquatic organization? Does the program invest in continuing education for staff? What is the experience? And what are the qualifications of the teacher you and your child may have? You might observe – without ‘suiting up’ – a class taught by one or more teachers that you or your child might have,” she said.
Getting Ready at Home for Lessons
Kathie Neir is owner of a Sammamish-based swim program for kids age 18 months to 13 years old that emphasizes individualized instruction. Neir has a master's degree in health and physical education and has taught swimming for over 25 years. Offered at her private, heated pool, Neir's program uses a Floatation Belt Method to enhance student's confidence.
Neir said that parents can get kids ready at home to have a successful swim lesson experience. "Parents should start their child taking showers at a very young age. You can make a game of it by pouring water over their head, having them put water over their head and learning to blow bubbles," she said.
"Even two year olds are very capable of this. Do not cover their face while washing their hair, as you are teaching them to not ever get water on their face. And make sure you use a non-eye irritating shampoo. Another teaching game you can do to teach blowing bubbles is to light a candle and have them blow it out."
How to Encourage a Reluctant Swimmer
Mel Roberts acknowledged that not every kid starts out a strong swimmer and parents need to look for the right program and be patient. “Lessons have to be a pleasant experience for effective learning to take place. Usually his or her fear is based on a bad experience, by either themselves or someone close to them. They may have a difficult time trusting strangers. Having them watch swimming lessons will allow them to see that children in the classes are having fun while they are learning, and the instructor is there to help them and ensure their safety. Having the children meet the instructor before starting the lessons will help them feel more comfortable during the lessons.”
Going swimming and participating in water activities as a family will show them that swimming can be fun and help them relax in the water. Be patient; remember children all develop at different rates. They need to realize that there are rewards for being a strong swimmer. Many of the fun activities in and around the water require a certain level of swimming skill in order to participate, such as using the diving boards.”
Consider A Program that Offers Year Round Swim Lessons
So many parents think of summer as “swim lesson time” but Vera Garibaldi said if you want your child to become a strong, confident and safe swimmer, look for a program that offers year-round swim lessons. “Our lessons are offered year round and we encourage everyone in our program to swim year round and to practice outside of class. Children under three have no long term memory retention, so no matter how good they are, if parents don’t continue to practice the skills, they can lose them."
Swim Lesson Resources In and Near Sammamish
In addition to Kathie Neir's swim lesson program in Sammamish, there are several other resources in or near the Plateau offering swim lessons. They include: , Gold's Gymin Issaquah, the Sammamish Clubin Issaquah, the Sammamish Family YMCA and the Issaquah Swim School at the Julius Boehm Pool.