Swimming lessons for children // Learning to swim

I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the various swimming lessons Toby and Gabe have done. We have done various different lessons with them over the last five years so I thought it might be interesting to do a post about their experiences of learning to swim.

Baby Swimming

I started baby swimming lessons with Toby when he was three months old. We went to Turtle Tots classes up in Scotland where we used to live. (We received one term of lessons free as part of a collaboration with Konfidence but paid for all the rest ourselves). I really enjoyed taking him, a couple of the mums from our NCT group went to the same class so it was a chance for us to catch up and have a chat.

We did have a few wobbles along the way, which were mostly solved by moving to a class in a warmer pool and we kept up our classes until Toby was 13 months old and I went back to work full time. We tried moving to a weekend class but with Barry and I both working full time a weekend swimming lesson just didn’t work for us.

Baby swimming underwater

I did enjoy baby swimming with Toby and it was lovely to see him swimming underwater when he was so little but in terms of him actually learning to swim it didn’t really get us very far – I think to get the real benefit from baby swimming you really have to keep it up until the child can swim, which isn’t always easy to fit in if you return to work.

I wrote a post about my Top Tips for Baby Swimming – if you’re going swimming with your little one then there are few things you might find useful.

Toddler Swimming

Toby didn’t really do any swimming as a toddler – we got him back into swimming lessons when he was four so we’ll get to that in a minute. I always felt guilty that I didn’t take Gabe swimming when he was a baby but with toddler to look after as well it just wasn’t possible.

I really wanted to get both boys into swimming lessons when we moved back to England but it wasn’t until we’d been here a year and Gabe was two that we actually got him started. We received one block of lessons with Puddle Ducks in exchange for a review, but after the block was over we continued to go to lessons and paid for these ourselves.

Now, it may just be Gabe’s personality, or it may be because he had only ever been in a swimming pool once before (when we went on holiday to Bluestone) but for the first three weeks of his lessons he just screamed and cried and refused to get in the water! It was really hard, and I’ll admit I was almost in tears myself a few times, but we stuck with it. Our teacher was lovely and never pushed me to put Gabe in the pool, or for him to join in, but she kept offering encouragement and eventually he was happy enough to get in the water.

Toddler swimming

It took another few weeks before he would join in with the lesson but we have been going to our Puddle Ducks lessons for almost 18 months now and Gabe loves it! He’s still not the most confident in the water and he doesn’t like putting his face in the water but we are definitely seeing improvements. The goggles he is wearing in the picture above have helped – both Toby and Gabe were given a pair of these goggles from Swimfreak to review and they’ve been great.

I think if you have chance to take your toddler or preschooler to swimming lessons then it is definitely a good time to get them starting to learn to swim. Once September comes around and Gabe starts school though we obviously won’t be able to carry on with our Friday morning lessons. We might look to move to a weekend class where I can stay in the pool with him or we might move on to the kind of group lessons that Toby started when he was four.

Gabe ready for swimming at three and a half years old

Swimming lessons for primary school children

There are lots of options for swimming lessons for primary age children. From council run sessions, local leisure centres to private swimming schools or one-to-one lessons. For Toby we opted for lessons at our local YMCA swimming pool. He started just after he turned four in a class with up to 8 children, with the instructor in the water with them. I was really worried at his first lesson that he wouldn’t want to get in the pool, having never been swimming without me before but he was fine.

The wobbles came later, and we had several weeks where he would cry and not want to get in. He was always fine when he had been coaxed into the pool but it wasn’t always easy. Toby made quite quick progress when he first started swimming, and went from having four foam armbands on each arm to two and then soon to none. He could happily swim with a float and it wasn’t too long before he could swim on his back with no float at all.

But, he hated jumping in the pool and would often just refuse to do it. He also wouldn’t put his face in the water, even with goggles on. His teacher was very no nonsense in her approach, and although that may work for some children, it didn’t always work for Toby. Just being told to do something wouldn’t make Toby do it, he needed someone who would encourage him and work with him.

Toby after his swimming lesson

After a lot of deliberation we decided to move Toby to have his swimming lessons somewhere else. He actually now goes to the same pool as Gabe, but his lessons are run by the pool rather than with Puddle Ducks.

I have to  admit it hasn’t been the immediate success I hoped – in fact in terms of his actually swimming he seems to have gone backwards a bit. However, I think he is learning better technique now, and perhaps more importantly he will now happily put his face in the water and is getting much better at jumping in too. He really likes his new teacher which I think is helping a lot and fingers crossed he continues to make progress.

I think really Toby would benefit from some one-to-one lessons  – the main problem at the moment is that because the children do everything one at a time in their lesson, he is actually only probably swimming for 10 minutes of his half hour lesson, if that! The trouble with one-to-one lessons of course is that they are a lot more expensive than the group lessons.

For now, as long as Toby is happy, we’re just going to keep going with the lessons and hopefully he will eventually get some more confidence. We should probably make more of an effort to take both the boys swimming outside of their lessons because I think that could really help with their confidence too. I guess we just need to keep at it and hope that eventually they get it.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with children learning to swim – has anyone else had children who struggled and did you find anything to help?


**Disclosure: We have worked with Turtle Tots, Puddle Ducks and Konfidence on blog collaborations in the past. We have never been paid to promote them and are not currently working with them or any other brand mentioned in this post.

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