There is a common phrase among swimmers which is ‘swim for life’. While that can be interpreted several ways, I equate it with the fact that swimming is an activity that can be performed by the very youngest individuals all the way through life into the late stages of adulthood. Even if a person is in a wheelchair or has suffered a stroke or physical injury, they can still get into a pool and exercise to some degree. Swimming is kind of magical that way.
Since the kidSwim focus is primarily on the very young, we see the introduction to swimming as a gift and a joy. There are so many incredible benefits to being in the water during infancy that I encourage all parents to indulge in this activity simply because it enhances all areas of development for babies and toddlers. On top of that, the bonding time with parents ensures that their first experiences with water and their initial imprint of memory associated to water is positive, nurturing and safe.
As children advance in age and stage development, the skills need to accommodate those changes, and while skills taught can be challenging, they also need to be in line with what the child can actually perform instead of an unrealistic expectation about what the child ‘should’ be doing. This allows for appropriate levels of frustration and then, when achieved, real feelings of success and accomplishment. Along with physical milestones, we want to make sure that children feel empowered about their own development.
Another thing to keep in mind as you begin your child’s journey towards water safety and proper swim technique is that swimming is a mature sport both mentally and physically. Many Olympians don’t even begin to show signs of promise until they are at least 10 or 11, sometimes even a bit older than that. It’s key to long term success that children learn correct form and correct breathing technique from the very beginning. All along the way, proper technique should be a constant part of the learning process. Children older than age 8 or 9 can begin to focus more on endurance and building strength but no child can sustain a healthy swim speed or duration if they’re not breathing properly.
Now, 18 years into kidSwim, we have students who are old enough to have gone through high school and onto college. I am confident that while some may not have chosen swimming as their sport of choice for competition, they all know enough to jump into any pool and swim proper freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
As parents, we are encouraged to focus on the moment, try not to look ahead, appreciate where they are and who they are RIGHT NOW. As a swim instructor, water safety specialist and swim coach, we focus on both the here and now AND the future.