At the time my boys were aged 4 and 3 years old and they enjoyed every second of our time at the beach. Malachi enjoyed having a little paddle in the sea but he was more interested in digging big ditches and collecting treasures to bring home than spending hours in the water. My eldest Isaac however really loved the sea and he was quite brave, he didn’t want to hold his Daddy’s hand and he was super eager to go deeper and deeper into the sea. This made both me and Adam quite nervous. I am not a massive water fan. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is astoundingly beautiful and I could sit and look at it all day long, whether it’s the sea, a lake or a little stream. But feeling comfortable enough to go swimming in it is another thing altogether for me.
So we decided that we wanted to try and get Isaac confident in the water (and hopefully swimming) by next summer.
A few months later I went down to our local leisure centre to check out the swimming lessons there. I should have really checked out a website like Groupon* first to see if there were any local deals available but I was pleased to hear that they didn’t cost the earth at the leisure centre; it was £45 for 10 lessons which I think is very reasonable. There will obviously be price variations from centre to centre and then you also have the option to send them for private lessons, but I was really happy with our local swimming baths, the staff members were very friendly and helpful and it just had a lovely feel to it. There were plenty of options for when we wanted to take him too. They hold lessons every day starting at 4 o’clock on weekdays which gives us plenty of time after school to get him there.
So I signed Isaac up to start in the January of 2015 (by then he had turned 5). He was super excited to start, he felt like a really big boy. We take him straight from school on a Wednesday and his teacher Trish is great. She helped him to feel comfortable in the water straight away and quickly learned that he is easily distracted from what he is supposed to be doing, so she makes sure that she keeps his attention!
As soon as Isaac had his first lesson Malachi was desperate to get in the pool with him. I was a bit more nervous at the thought of my baby in the swimming pool without me, but then I thought that those nervous and fearful feelings are exactly what I don’t want my boys to have. So we put Malachi’s name on the waiting list. By the time the block of 10 lessons were finished Isaac was doing really well. He could swim on his back confidently; he enjoyed the breast stroke on his front and back. He wasn’t comfortable with the front crawl at that point but that was purely down to the fact that he had to put his face in the water.
Then it was my baby’s turn, although he was 4 by the time he started so he wasn’t that much of a baby any more. 🙁 They were over the moon to be together in the lessons though so it put me at rest to know that his big brother was there with him. Like Isaac, Malachi doesn’t like water in his face, so this is something that he is slowly getting used to. We decided to get them both some goggles to see if this made it easier for them. The reason we didn’t buy them at the start of their lessons was because we had been told that it is best for them to learn without goggles if possible so that they can just get used to the water, but we thought that we should give them a try as most of the other children did wear them and they seemed to help.
We bought them different goggles, both well respected brands – Zoggs* and Aqua Sphere* – with great reviews. But weirdly they didn’t seem to help the boys at all. To be honest they were just a nuisance. No matter where we put the bands on the back of their heads or how tight we made them they just constantly came off and filled with water. This didn’t seem to happen much with the other kids who were learning so maybe it is something to do with the shape of their heads or something. I’m not sure but they decided that they didn’t want to wear them again. So that was that for the goggles.
As the weeks have gone on they are both doing well. Isaac is getting the hang of front crawl and is happily swimming under the water. Malachi is also feeling more and more comfortable in the water. He has only had 4 lessons so he’s not swimming yet but I didn’t expect him to. He is very much like me and doesn’t naturally feel at ease in the water, so I am just over the moon that he is enjoying it and he is pushing himself to do better.
So how old does a child need to be to learn to swim? I would say that the younger you can get them in the water the better. To feel at ease in the water is a huge thing and it is usually just nerves that hold a child back. If I was to have another baby I would try to make sure that I took them to the swimming baths every week so that it wasn’t something new and scary to them as they got older. Even though learning to swim at 4 and 5 is still young, I feel that it would have helped them if they had always spent a lot of time in the water from being babies. This is just my opinion from my experience of my children though. Each child is different and some may not be ready till they are much older. So I suppose it is down to us parents to discern when our child is ready to learn to swim.
How old was your child when they learnt to swim? Or are you waiting till they are older?