The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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Swim Lesson for Babies

Should you start your baby (under the age of 2) in swimming lessons? Swim lessons for infants? Swim lessons for toddlers? In my opinion, that really just depends on two things:
1. It depends on whether or not the experience will be a positive one.
2. It depends on whether or not you have reasonable expectations.

If you can answer yes to those two questions, baby swim lessons can be a wonderful experience for your baby. If your instructor takes a child centered approach, if the water is warm (87-94 degrees), if you are looking develop prerequisite skills to swimming and have realistic baby swimming goals, then you are on your way to having a great time and a beautiful bonding experience with your baby.

Toddlers as young as 19 – 24 months can learn some real swimming skills, even lifesaving skills, but no infant or toddler should ever be expected to save his own life. Parents must use a layered approach to drowning prevention and see to it that their infant or toddler never has to save him/herself from drowning. If they do, the parent has failed the child.

My advice to parents looking for opinions on these so-called infant aquatic survival techniques is quite straightforward: Pick up your baby and run the other direction! Stay far away from instructors and programs who’s one and only goal is survival swimming. Instructors who force skills on babies before they are ready are putting their lives at risk in the lesson itself. Would you like to see what this approach can look like? Check out the video clips on linked up in a fantastic blog by Katrina Ramser Parrish called Infant Aquatic Survival Techniques. Personally, I had to turn the video off because it was so sad. It literally had me in tears. I can’t imagine any parent thinking this is okay. I want to publicly thank Katrina for her excellent work in communicating what this approach can look like.

As a parent of three young boys myself (Rex, 3 months, Nolan, 2 years, and Jeb, now 7 years), I know that what I want for my children. Nothing is more important to me than my boys knowing that I love them. Nothing is more important to me than my boys knowing that I will protect them. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. But you will never in a million years see my children in that environment. Innocent children are being put at risk by their own parents, because they are being led to believe that their baby can be drown-proofed.

At Swim Lessons University, we train instructors to teach infants and toddlers to swim through a child focused approach. Swim lessons for infants and swim lessons for toddlers can be of great value. Infants and toddlers can learn to swim in a setting that is positive and joyful. You can watch video samples of young toddlers (including my own) doing some very amazing things in our classes as well, but as a result of a completely different approach. An approach that puts the child first . . . an approach that makes learning enjoyable . . . an approach that shows our children that we love them.

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November 11, 2010 at 12:08 am
  • November 11, 2010 at 5:00 pmTina

    Love it: “Pick up your baby and run in the opposite direction.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

    Reasonable expectations are your best form of measurement when pondering swim lessons for your baby. And making it a positive experience doesn’t take brain science to understand. Great post, Jim!

  • November 11, 2010 at 9:38 pmJim Reiser

    Thanks Coach!

  • November 13, 2010 at 8:06 pmCurt

    I read this and was horrified with what I saw in the video’s. Kids should want to swim again!

  • November 14, 2010 at 1:13 pmJim Reiser

    Like I said, I couldn’t even get thru the video. I just can’t understand how parents think that is okay, and how it is not considered child abuse. Thanks Coach Curt, for joining us in teaching children to swim in a way that develops a life long love of the water.

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