Having raised three children and observed the hundreds of children I taught in swim lessons, I can say, unequivocally, that three is the age of fear.
And then they turn four…..
Four- year- olds are delightful and fun, but fearless– and around the water they require being closely watched. Most of them are willing to try anything, so they’re easy to teach. That is unless they’ve had a bad experience. So don’t let them have that bad experience!
Because of their fearlessness, extra hands, eyes and ears are good to have while teaching them. It doesn’t even have to be a certified teacher, just someone (or two!) that can help watch and hold. They often jump in when you don’t expect it!
Those that had lessons as three-year-olds start out at four working on stamina. They learn to float longer, tread longer and swim longer distances. One full length (not lap) of the pool, without grabbing onto the side, is what we aimed for. Ideally, they would swim the whole way. But stopping to float or tread was acceptable, just as long as they didn’t have to grab onto the side of the pool.
And the fours were excited to try and work on everything. The full length was a big goal for them and we made a really big deal when they accomplished it. Along with stamina, they perfected their swim stroke. Of course, they weren’t coordinated enough to do rhythmic breathing, so they’d swim a little with their face in the water, then rise up and breathe, while still swimming, and resume with their face in the water. It worked.
And this age was really into the “fall off the back of the boat” game. Again, working on stamina, they had to wait longer for the “boat” to return to them. Some of them even liked waving their hands to get the attention of the “boat”. All this was a good way to strengthen their swim legs and a fun way of roll playing. A four-year-old’s imagination is limitless!
If they start swim lessons for the first time at four, they will go through all the three-year-olds are expected to accomplish first, before starting on other things the fours do. Sometimes they catch up quickly, and sometimes it takes longer.
It’s best to start them at three. So don’t ignore swim lessons for your preschooler!