A swim coach is teaching a class proper butterfly form.

When A Child Seems Behind Pace in Learning to Swim

Parents often ask “Is my child learning to swim quickly enough?”

Perhaps this is a worry of the typical swim parent because their expectations have never been set in regards to “how long” it should take. There are lots of popular theories. For example, some suggest that learning how to swim requires at least 10,000 correct repetitions or 10,000 strokes in the pool. Some will estimate that most 3-5 year old learn how to swim in 20-30 lessons and that most 6-9 year olds take 8 to 20 lessons. But the truth is that there are just too many factors that influence the pace of learning to make an accurate prediction that fits each and every child.

There is no simple answer to this question because of these influential factors:

How often the child has lessons and practice sessions.

A child taking swimming lessons once per week is likely to learn at a slower pace than a child taking lessons more often – and much more slowly than a child who swims daily.

What will help?

Increasing the frequency of swimming lessons or practice sessions for the child will help. Note that it’s important that practice repetitions be done correctly. Simply splashing around and paddling in the water will not help the child learn to do proper swim strokes (such as breaststroke or freestyle) in the proper way.

How interested/motivated the child is about learning to swim.

Swimming is an important life skill and potential life saver. Even though all children may not have an inherent interest in swimming, they need to be motivated in some way to learn this skill.

What will help?

Make learning fun! The introduction of water games and toys can help accomplish this. If the child is particularly competitive, make it into some sort of challenge that may provide motivation. Read a few ways to make swim lessons fun here.  [Today’s Parent: http://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/teach-kids-swimming-with-five-fun-and-easy-games/]

Positive or negative experiences with swimming lessons or water the child has had.

Whether it’s a knee scrape or an unexpected plunge in the water, any negative experience that the child associates with swimming lessons or the water can influence their willingness and ability to learn to swim. Spending half of the lesson time screaming doesn’t help the progress of the suffering child or any other children who may be trying to learn at the same time.

What will help?

Find ways that the child can be made comfortable at the pool. Perhaps bringing bath time toys would associate a good experience with water for the child. Having a parent or sibling get in the water with the child may also help comfort the child.

How many students the child shares the class with.

The number of students in the class with the child definitely influences the child’s performance. The ideal number of students in a group lesson is 2-3 per instructor. This dynamic can work two ways: too large or too small. Some children learn better when they’re alone. They may require more personalized attention from instructors or be embarrassed or pressured when attempting skills in front of others. The opposite can also be true. Some children learn better in groups where they can see other students try a skill before they make their attempt at it. They also may find the individual attention of private lessons overwhelming or intimidating.

What will help?

Learn a little about each child from parents or from a casual interview of the child. It will then make you and the child’s parents more comfortable with the choice of group or private lessons.

Whether the class is strict or lenient in structure.

Some classes are strictly structured where instructors adhere to skill drill schedules. Others are more casual where children learn from fun-oriented drills. Placing a child a structure opposite of the way he learns best can slow the learning process or even spark a dislike for the lessons over time.

What will help?

Noticing a lack of progress may be a signal that the structure of the lessons does not fit the way the child learns most readily. Changing up the class structure may renew the child’s interest and quicken the pace of learning. If a child isn’t progressing at an ideal pace, ask your instructor to try a different instruction style. One of the many benefits of private or semi-private swimming lessons is the flexibility. Instructors are able to customize their classes to better cater to the needs of individuals.

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