Once you’ve determined that it’s the right time to start your child in swim instruction, you’re faced with the task of picking a provider. Choosing swim lessons for kids isn’t a decision to take lightly, as it can affect a lot about how your son or daughter does in the water.
A great teacher from a place that takes swim instruction seriously helps your child develop a love of the water as well as good swimming techniques. And, they impart a sense of fun while still conveying the importance of water safety.
On the other hand, ending up with a less-than-stellar swim instructor can turn being in the pool into an unpleasant experience for kids. Plus, it can leave them with poor technique and not enough respect for the potential dangers of being in and around the water.
Remember—drowning is a leading cause of death in children ages 1 through 14—so swim instruction is about safety as much as it’s about learning technique.
Keep the following advice for choosing swim lessons for kids in mind as you look into your options. They maximize the chances that you find a good fit for your child, both in the place where the lessons are held and in the teacher.
How to Select Swim Instruction for Your Child
- Ask other parents who’ve put their kids in swim lessons for recommendations—and cautionary tales. For those who were happy with their experiences, try to find out who the teacher was in addition to where they went.
- Inquire about the venue’s hiring process. Learn how they vet their instructors and what requirements they set, and confirm that they perform a complete background check. Of course, swim teachers should be CPR certified.
- Find out about the instructor’s qualifications and experience. You don’t just want a good swimmer; you also want a good teacher. Make sure they’re qualified to train children of your kid’s age and skill level.
- Observe a lesson before enrolling. Watch how the instructor interacts with the children, including how they handle kids who are afraid or misbehaving. Look for encouragement and positive reinforcement rather than pressure. Avoid signing up at a place that won’t let you watch a class first.
- Ensure that the training starts with water safety issues and survival skills before getting into any actual swimming, and that they remain part of the lesson plan throughout.
- Look for swim instruction where the teacher is always in the water with the kids.
- Opt for swim lessons that you’re allowed to watch from nearby.
- Stay away from swimming classes that put more than 4 to 6 kids with one instructor. The smaller the group, the better.
- Confirm that your child will only be with other kids of the same skill level—and preferably close in age, too.
- Ask how kids are tested on their skills and how the process of advancing to higher classes works. Children should be regularly evaluated and moved along to prevent boredom and so they can keep improving.
- Inquire about how often you get feedback about your kid’s progress directly from the teacher.
- Choose classes that are convenient for your schedule, but also that are convenient for your kid. Don’t overload your child on any given day, make him or her have to wait too long for a meal, and so on. The activity shouldn’t be a source of stress for either of you, or it can easily make swimming less desirable.
- Find a pool where there’s a lifeguard on duty during swim instruction.