Your child’s first swim lesson can be an exciting and anxious time for any parent. To help make this transition a little easier for parent and child I have compiled a list of the best things to bring and do before your very first swim lesson. This list is primarily for children who are attending their first independent class, but most of these suggestions apply to parent and me classes as well.
What do you take to your child’s first swim lesson? All you really need to bring to your child’s first swim lesson is proper swim attire, a warm towel, sunscreen, any applicable paperwork and a positive attitude. If you are tempted to pack your car full of every swim product that has ever caught your eye: resist the impulse!
This list is pretty straightforward but living in our modern world means we have a million choices of even the simplest things so I will expand on what will help your child assimilate into the water, leaving you with a positive first experience.
One of the greatest obstacles that swim teachers face is when children do not come properly dressed to lessons. The swim attire your child wears will assist them in becoming confident swimmers by letting your child focus on what is being taught instead of what they are wearing.
Once you have some experience in the water, picking out the right swim suit will be second nature and you will get to enjoy finding the cutest outfit to dress your little one in, but as a swim teacher I have seen many instances of parents who choose the wrong outfit for their beginning simmer.
When choosing a swim suit there is not a correct cut. Your child can be successful wearing a bikini, speedo, swim shorts, tankini or one piece as long as the swim suit fits properly. The most common mistake is choosing a swim suit is when the suit does not properly fit the child. As a mother to young children, I often purchase clothes a size up, to maximize the amount of time my child will actually wear that item, but this is counterproductive when it comes to swim wear.
To help your child have the best experience learning to swim, you want to make sure their swim suit fits correctly, which means close to the body. The reason for this is swim suits that are loose create “drag,” which is resistance created by the water when someone swims. This is something that competitive swimmers actually choose to create by wearing multiple swim suits or loose fitting swim suits during practice, but is not ideal for someone first learning to swim.
To find the right fit for girls, you just want to make sure that the swim top does not look loose. It should be slightly more fitted than a t-shirt. If the swim suit looks tight to you, one size up should be the correct fit.
Boys swim suits are a little trickier because typically they are in shorts, which create a lot of “drag.” You do have the choice to put your son in a speedo, but if you and your son aren’t comfortable with that, you need to make sure to find a pair of swim shorts that fit snuggly around the waste. The best way to test this is by tying them and then giving them a solid tug down. If the shorts slide easily over your child’s bottom, they are too big. Properly fitting shorts will move, as anything you yank on will, but they should not go over the bottom nor show too much of your child’s bottom.
A new trend I have noticed is boys swim suits that come with a swim shirt. This is a great movement that helps protect your children from damaging rays, and finding the correct fit for a boys swim shirt is the same for a girl with a swim top. The shirt should be slightly more snug than that of a t-shirt without constricting your child’s movement.
Purchasing swimwear is one of my favorite things to do for my daughters and son, but there is no reason to fret too much. Swimming attire comes in many different designs, but before you buy, make sure that your choice fits your child and will allow them to freely and comfortably move throughout the water. When they are younger, you will likely need to buy your child a new swimsuit every summer, so there is really no point in trying to a size they can grow into.
Finding the right swim suit may take a little time, which is the reason bringing a towel should be a no brainer. Anytime a child tries something new it can be a little scary and often a large swimming pool creates a little anxiety in every child. For this reason, it is a good idea that you bring a towel that will be comforting after your child’s first experience. My daughters are little fishes in the water, which means that lessons are an exciting and fun time. If your child is not quite this confident, a nice, fluffy, big towel can provide a little comfort and support after an intimidating new activity. One thing I recommend to parents of timid children is to lay their towel out in the sun during the lesson to warm the towel so the child does not have to be cold once they are out of the water.
Shampoo and a Change of Clothing
Depending on where you are taking swim lessons, you may or may not have the opportunity to shower your child at the location. As a home instructor, I do have a shower I offer to parents for bathing their child instead of waiting until they get home. If you have the option to bathe your child at the lesson location, you may consider bringing soap, shampoo and a change of clothing.
It should be noted that swimming pool showers are not always the best in terms of ease of use or pressure, but if you have a busy day ahead, it is better to bathe your child instead of waiting hours to do so. This is a personal preference, but it is something to consider. With three kids, I am often running from one place to another so it is easier to bathe them at the pool rather than letting them sit in chlorine for the rest of the day.
My first swim teaching position was at an indoor pool, so the idea of using sunscreen was laughable, but now that I am living in Las Vegas, sunscreen is my life! For outside lessons, bring sunscreen that is water resistant and a high enough SPF for how long your lessons will last. Sunscreen is so important in the water because your child will often not realize that they are being burned. For mid-day lessons, the sun’s rays will often reflect off the water to really burn your child’s face. If your child does not like the feel of lotion, there are many spray-on sunscreens and even sunscreen sticks that make face application easy. The links provided are what I use for my own kids.
Some swim locations will have paperwork they require. This may include bringing a receipt or signing a liability waiver. Although this does not happen at every location, it is fairly standard to sign a liability release form. However, before you sign anything make sure you are comfortable with everything it says. If you are not comfortable ask questions! Even if it seems inconvenient, it is far better to be properly informed!
As a mom, it is exciting and nerve wracking to see my children try new things and I am always amazed how my kids pick up on that energy when I don’t say a word about it! After you have signed up for lessons, begin talking water up!
If you have a week or two before your lessons begin, you may consider increasing your bath time to allow more play, taking your child swimming in a pool to give them exposure or showing them pictures of swimmers- professional and recreational.
Attending lessons for the first time is really intimidating for children. They are no longer with their parent and often a swimming pool is much more water than they are usually exposed to. As a parent, you are the first person they look to for reassurance, so creating a positive experience begins at home.
Timid children often struggle with this process, which means parents will be involved in the initial transition into the water. During this transition, try and keep a partnership feel between you and the instructor. If your child sees that you value and trust the instructor, they will be more willing to trust the instructor.
After the lesson, be excited and proud of what your child has accomplished. Some children will excel right off the bat, but others may need to spend their first lesson with only their feet in the water. As a parent, don’t feel the need to lecture or push, just be excited for what your child has done. The more confidence you can instill in them, the more willing they will be to tackle new concepts their instructor asks of them.
What you shouldn’t bring to your child’s first swim lesson
Now that you know what to bring, there are also a few things to leave at home.
I love goggles and spent a lot of my adolescence wearing them, but different swim instructors have different opinions about them. For new students, wearing goggles can create a fear of going into the water without them.
Having water on your face is a foreign feeling for children, and it is their initial lesson that standardizes what they can expect. If they begin lessons with goggles, there is a good chance that they will be frantic if they have to swim without them.
As a teacher, I often teach without the children wearing goggles until the child is ready to begin learning crawl stroke. By this time, the child has typically become acclimated to the feeling of water on their face.
It is a safe choice to leave them at home for the first lesson. If your child really struggles without them, have a conversation with your instructor to see if this is something that could be overcome or if it would be better to supply goggles to help build your child’s confidence.
Just like what happens with goggles, a child who uses a nose plug will really struggle to learn to swim without it. Many of my students who have been taught with a nose plug learn to swim at a much slower pace because they are having to constantly focus on not allowing water into their nose.
Swimming without a nose plug is something our bodies are designed to do. In fact, blowing bubbles out of your nose is a great way to develop a natural rhythm during crawl stroke. Children wearing nose plugs don’t develop this rhythm and often over think it when the nose plugs are removed.
As children swim and become stronger swimmers, they will want to begin with the same circumstances they had during lessons, this means they will require a nose plug to feel comfortable when it is really not necessary. The nose plug is really something no child ever needs, so just don’t bring one at all!
A child’s first swim lesson is a big step in developing a love of the water and great recreational activity. As a parent, the best thing to do to foster this relationship is to help prepare them to be successful. The most important aspect of this is making swim lessons a fun and positive experience for everyone involved.