Dear Teachers & Parents:
I received an email today with a VERY COMMON QUESTION from a parent who has a young two year old in our Parent & Me class who is doing wonderfully. However, and I think this happens often, there was a misunderstanding that because of the progress the little one was making, that continuing in the same class may be a waste of time. As instructors and swim school owners, it is vital that we communicate the message that I did today. If we don’t, the child’s progress will likely stop. So here it is, enjoy:
Dear Coach Jim,
We are really pleased with Laura’s progress in her swim lessons. Her teacher, Coach M., said she thought Laura was physically ready for the next class, but your 101 class is 3 and up…Laura is only 2 and 6 weeks. Do you think she could enroll in 101 despite her age, or is that a strict rule? We just don’t want her to lose the skills she has already gotten, and it seems a waste to take the Parent and Me class again.
Your question is a common and I believe this is a great question and one that I will blog about for you and other parents, not to mention to “hammer home” to my Swim Lessons University teachers. Secondly, I also want you to know that what I am about to recommend for Laura and all of our other wonderful young toddler swimmers, is the same route that I take for my own children. My oldest, Jeb, now almost 7, did my Parent & Me curriculum until he was 3. Nolan, now 23 months, will do the same.
Here’s a little background on toddlers and swimming progression and why the Parent & Me class is the right one for toddlers under 3 years of age:
#1 For safety reasons, I always want the parent with the toddler until they are 3 because they need that “hands on” supervision while they are learning to follow directions. It is too risky for a 2 year old to be in even a semi private lesson without the parent because of the risk of them entering the water without the instructor seeing it. One extended submersion could cause a toddler who was doing great to take major backward strides, not to mention the other risks. This is also another reason we use the Power Swimmer flotation device with our 3’s and I recommend it for our 2’s. However, unless the child has his/her balance in the water, they could still take in water even with the Power Swimmer or Type 3 Lifejacket (ski vest).
#2 From a progression standpoint, the skills Laura is developing in Parent and Me, i.e., front kicking, back kicking, breath control, breath holding, and swimming are the same skills we practice in Swim 101. All of these skills will continue to improve with more classes and practice no matter which course she is enrolled.
For example, let’s touch on the skills we are teaching in Parent & Me:
- Kicking on the Front: The kicking technique will continue to evolve and become more efficient with repetition no matter which course a toddler is enrolled (Parent & Me or Swim 101 (which we don’t do).
- Back Kicking: You should be (with the guidance of your instructor) going thru our back kicking progression in Parent & me to the point that Laura can kick on her back without any assistance from you or the teacher. To make this progression more achievable, I recommend coupling the SwimWays Power Swimmer and a Noodle at about age two, and then eventually going away from the noodle to where you are using the head and hip support, head support, and then no support at all. This is taught in Parent & Me the same way we teach it in Swim 101.
- Breath Control: The dolphin dips (breath control exercise) teaches toddlers how to get their breath in a hurry and return to the inline position. Some form of breath control exercise is not only practiced in Swim 101, but also Swim Strokes 201. The only difference is at three years of age, the child is asked to put their face in the water by their own will, using their won decision making abilities, whereas we “assist” the toddler’s face in the water in Parent & Me unless they are resisting. But here again, the end result is the same skill is being continuously refined throughout the “Parent & Me” learn to swim class.
- Swimming: The swimming will improve as her kick improves coupled with her breath holding ability. All this will occur in Parent and Me and just as it would improve in Swim 101. Kick practice is kick practice. The kick will become more refined over time thru manipulating the legs properly and simply more class time / practice time to refine the skill.
*The ONLY exception in terms of a “new skill” that we introduce in Swim 101 is the “Pop up Breath” or “Roll-over Breath.” My experience is that from a motor development standpoint, most 2 year olds aren’t ready to do the pop-up breath. If the toddler can kick on her/his back without assistance, then the roll-over breath is possible upon mastering back kicking. I have had some older two year olds do the “pop-up” breath, but it is a skill that you have to pay close attention to because of the risk of the child breathing in water before their neck muscles, etc. are strong enough and their breath control skills are so well developed that they have the ability to get the breath in a hurry.
- Safety Skills: At age two, my son Jeb could perform Safety Skill #2 without any assistance. I remember one day spotting him and he jumped in and swam back to the wall at least a dozen times in a row without any assistance from me whatsoever. This is a skill that we DO NOT practice in Swim 101 AND WE DO PRACTICE in PARENT AND ME because it is so appropriate for two year olds. In Swim 101, we spend the additional practice time on learning the “pop-up breath” whereas the toddlers generally aren’t ready for that as I mentioned earlier. I believe the toddlers are better served by working on the Safety Skills, which require less swimming and they can focus on learning how to swim themselves back to the side of the pool, which is why we do that in the Parent & Me curriculum.
Lastly, I want to just touch on the way we begin our Parent & Me classes. We start it with some “one on one” time to get the infants and toddlers acclimated and then we do the group acclamation songs, etc. I have found no matter how monotonous it may seem for us adults, the toddlers absolutely love that time and the socialization aspect of it is quite beneficial.
I hope that all my teachers and swim parents can see that I put a tremendous amount of thought, time, research, and regularly apply my countless experiences with Parent & Me classes into developing the Swim Lessons University curriculum which is what I feel is the best infant-toddler curriculum possible for my children and yours.
I hope my input and feedback will help you and all our current and future students.
Jim Reiser, M.S.
“The Swim Professor”
2010 Life Saver of the Year by National Drowning Prevention Alliance
2008 Adolph Kiefer Water Safety Person of the Year by USA Swimming
Water Safety Chairperson – Safe Kids Midlands
Local Partner – “Make a Splash” Initiative
Founder, President -Swim Lessons University
Founder, CE0 – The Swim Lessons Company, LLC