Learning to swim is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Not only will it help keep them safe in and around the water, it’s great for their confidence and their belief that they can take on new challenges. How else would they go on to compete in swimming, play water polo or scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef?!
Lessons are a significant investment and we want to make sure that you and your child get the most out of your lessons.
There’s a lot that you can do before your child even dips their toes in the water to ensure that happens. Check out the suggestions below for a lead-up to a successful first lesson!
In the Weeks Leading Up To Class
Start with a dry run.
Take a drive out to the pool you will be frequenting for lessons with your child. Even if the access door is locked, if possible have a peek through the window at the pool. Point out to your child the deck and let them know that it gets slippery when wet and that's why you’re both going to walk on the deck and not run! Show them the shower, the hot tub (which of course they can’t use - but sometimes it’s good to let them know that up-front!) and the change room. A familiarity tour is great for figuring out directions to the pool, scoping out the best place to park, figuring out exactly how long it takes to drive to the pool, and where the pool is located in the building.
Plan a family swim day.
Like the dry run, a family swim day at your closest public pool can help prepare you for weekly lessons in many ways. First, it can give you a practice run for packing your swim bag; timing out how long it takes to get ready for lessons; help you identify what you need and what equipment you’re missing (maybe goggles, hair elastics, snacks). Take note of what you're missing and place those items on your to-pick-up list.
For your family swim day, make it the main focus of the day and leave yourself lots of time to get ready, arrive at and change for the pool. Don’t rush, take your time and keep the tone of the day playful. It's important that your child comes to understand that swimming is joyful while you practice getting ready for swim lessons.
"Sure, you can help out."
Why not let your child get involved in preparing for lessons? Maybe let them help you pack their swim bag, or pick out the colour of their goggles, swimsuit or favourite towel. Having them participate in the preparation can help kids “buy” into going to lessons and can give them something to focus on rather than their nerves or anxiety.
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Consider a “shorty”.
Is your child mostly skin ’n bones? Maybe they don’t have much body fat or get cold easily. I have a son like this. We found that investing in a shorty wetsuite was a good way to keep him warmer in the pool and stretched out the amount of time he spent in the pool before his lips turned blue. They're not cheap, but we’ve found it to be well worth the investment. I’d estimate it let him swim anywhere from three to five times longer In the summer you can find them at Costco. Off season, you can purchase them at MEC or online.
A Few Days Before Class
Everybody has a very busy schedule and emergencies can pop up when you least expect it. Taking the time to pack your child’s swim bag in the days leading up to the first class will be one less thing to think about. All you’ll have to do on the day of class is grab it and go!
But do you have everything you’ll need? Check out our checklist below for all the essentials:
- swimsuit/swim shorts (that tie up)
- beach towel
- goggles (consider getting a spare pair)
- Power Swimmer (for Parents & Tots and Swim 101, swimmers age 2-5 yrs)
- swim cap OR hair elastics and 2 barrettes
- an additional pair of underwear if they wear their swimsuit to the lesson
- plastic bag for wet items
- shampoo & conditioner
- water & healthy snack
- swim diaper for tots who are not potty trained
- swimsuit and towel for Mom or Dad in the Parents & Tots class
Following these tips in the weeks and days leading up to your child's first swim lesson will help them have the best experience possible and make swim lessons a positive experience, not a scary one.
What preparations did you make before your first or your child's first swim lesson? Let me know in the comments of this blog.
Be on the lookout for part two of this blog where we go over how to get the most out of that first swim lesson.