Three years old is the age most children begin regular swim lessons. The YMCA, as well as the Red Cross affiliated programs, has special classes for preschoolers. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, having taught both, I prefer the Y’s method and would recommend it.
NO child—of ANY age, but most especially preschoolers, should EVER be forced under water if they don’t want to do it. Doing so can easily turn a confident child into one with an abject fear of the water. All kids have their own schedule, and with encouragement, will eventually go under water.
And going under water is vital to getting the child comfortable in the water. One of the floats taught to preschoolers is the front float—once called dead man’s float. It’s a good way to stay afloat without expending any energy, and is taught along with back float and water treading. The child just lies on the water, face down, holding his/her breath for as long as possible. Then raising the head while slowly sculling to catch a breath, and returning to the face-down position.
However, there’s always the child who doesn’t want to put their face in the water, so that may take time. Once they’re ok with their face in the water, they quickly learn to swim under water.
One exercise I always did with the preschoolers in my classes was falling off the back of the boat. They would all jump into the deep end at the same time (of course, being careful to separate them enough so they don’t jump on each other!) Then they were told they just fell off the back of the boat, nobody noticed them falling and the boat went on without them. They had to stay afloat until the boat came back for them.
The “boat” returned quickly for the threes. Also, with the threes we had plenty of adults in the water with them.
My YMCA had a preschool on site, and part of their curriculum was swimming lessons, which I taught with an assistant, Pat. Twice a week all three classes had swim lessons and play time in the pool. It was such a big draw for the Y’s preschool that they never had trouble filling their classes—with a waiting list for each. I understand they’ve since taken swim lessons out of their curriculum, but encourage the parents to get the kids in the Y’s regular swim lessons. It WAS time consuming!
If your child is now three, it’s time for swim lessons! And I hope you have access to a good YMCA program.