As the water parks open and the swim-party invitations start coming out this month, most parents begin to think about water safety and swim lessons at this time of year. The month of May is “National Water Safety Awareness” month. Every year, in the Las Vegas valley, many children drown in backyard pools. Worldwide, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under 14 years of age. To prevent these drownings, it is important to make sure that all swimmers are supervised; and that lifejackets are being used for non-swimmers; but most importantly, every child needs to know how to swim. When looking for the right swim program for your family, there are several things to consider.
The first factor that parents should look at is the curriculum of the swim program. Are there designated goals for each level? Is proper technique emphasized in each class? Does the program teach the child to self-rescue, in case they were to fall into a pool?
The second factor that parents should look at is the class size. Remember that the more students that are in the class, the less practice that your child will get at each lesson. Small class sizes allow the teacher to ensure that each child gets adequate attention. Private lessons, however, are usually not the best way to go, unless the child has a special need or learning disability that will prevent them from being in a group lessons. A little bit of positive peer pressure can go a long way in helping a child succeed in swim lessons. For this reason, it is usually best to have your child in small-group class.
Parents also need to consider the instructors. When inquiring about a swim program, one should ask what kind of training the staff goes through before they start teaching; what certifications are required for each instructor; and what type of aquatic background/child-development background do the teachers have. It is always a good idea to watch some lessons first before signing up. Are the teachers using positive reinforcement? Are they critiquing the swimmers? Are they encouraging the students to have fun and enjoy the lesson? Remember, children learn best when the classes are fun. For long-term success, it is best to look for a gentle-touch program, in which your child will not only learn water-safety skills, but also develop a life-long, positive relationship with the water. Aggressive programs that use force to teach a child often result in water trauma and mental disturbance that can carry forward for years. As many water-safety experts say, if your baby or toddler could talk, they would probably tell you, “Teach me; don’t hurt me.” Gentle ways are best.
In addition to the above, factors, consider the learning environment. Think about water temperature, water quality, and cleanliness of the facility. Also watch how the staff interacts with the children in the program. Look for teachers who smile, give high fives, and encourage the student to do their best. The learning environment should have a positive energy to it.
Choosing the right swim program is very similar to choosing the right pre-school/elementary school for your child. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly. You are investing in a skill that will not only stay with your child for life, but could also save their life. Remember, this is one investment of both time and finances that could prove to be, priceless.
Katrina Brandhagen is the Owner/Director of All Star Swim Academy in Henderson. For more information on swim lessons for students of all ages and abilities call 702-565-3824 or visit www.allstarswimacademy.com.