As a young child, I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s huge, in-ground pool. I was leaping off the diving board with an old-school, plastic swimming bubble strapped to my back around the age of five, and swimming bubble-free in the deep end around the age of six or seven. Uncoordinated and nonathletic on land, I was fearless and confident in the pool.
And this summer, I wanted to encourage my almost-four-year-old daughter to love swimming as much as I had. I had heard from many fellow club members that the preschooler swimming lessons were fantastic because they gave kids two solid, uninterrupted weeks of pool time with top-notch instructors. Unlike other swimming programs in the community that offer lessons once a week, the lessons at Midtown take place on four consecutive days each week, with the fifth day (Friday) set aside for makeup lessons or for further instruction if your child needs it. Each person that I talked to told me that her child had learned an incredible amount and had made significant improvements in swimming ability through the lessons.
The rave reviews sold me, and as soon as the Summer issue of Spirit came out, I paged through until I found the schedule, and signed up my daughter, who had been in pools often but who had never experienced any formal instruction.
On the first day, we met her instructor who was warm, welcoming, and very brave to take on the task of teaching preschoolers how to swim. Three-and-four-year-olds sometimes have the attention spans of gnats, and getting them to follow you is a bit like herding cats. I had no idea how my daughter would react to her instructor, to being in the water, or to being told what to do by someone she just met.
But now, a week after her lessons have ended, I can say unequivocally that the lessons were fantastic and a huge success.
Here’s what I loved:
The water temperature was always perfect. The instructors did not have to waste anytime coaxing the kids into the water because it was too cold. The kids got right in and were eager to get started. In addition, the depth of the Intermediate pool is exactly right for lessons. 2 feet, 6 inches is the perfect depth for a preschooler to move around comfortably, and without fear of the water level being too high for their bodies.
Fundamentals were first. One of the first things the kids worked on was their kicks. They would grasp the edge of the pool and when the instructor said “Splash me!”, they would kick like crazy. At the beginning of the lessons, my daughter would only kick with one leg, leaving the other firmly planted at the bottom of the pool for balance and security. By the end of the first week of lessons, she was a two-leg-kicking fool.
The lessons were fun and the kids were excited about participating.The noodles (used for floating while practicing kicks and arm movements) were a big hit, as were the boards. They did “Ring-Around-The-Rosey,” “London Bridges,” and jumping games.
There was no pressure to participate. If a child was unsure about a particular activity (for my daughter, it was jumping in by herself), then he or she didn’t need to do it. The instructors encouraged them, but did not force them or pressure them in any way.
The multiple-instructor format.I don’t think my daughter’s class was meant to have several different instructors during the course of the two weeks, but while some parents saw this as a negative, I saw it as a positive. Each instructor had her own style. While some were nurturing and sweet, others were more firm and direct in their instruction, and my daughter benefited from both of these styles.
One-on-one instruction.There were different points throughout the lessons where the instructor would give individualized attention to each child. With the other kids practicing their kicks or hanging on to the side, the instructor would take each child out into deeper water and help her float on her belly or her back, practice “scooping” the water with her hands, and near the end of the lessons, combine skills (bubbles, kicking, scooping) to “swim” on her own.
Here’s what my daughter can do now that she couldn’t do before:
Blow bubbles in the water while floating on her belly.
Kick with both legs simultaneously.
Go underwater completely, while blowing bubbles out of her nose.
Use her arms in the water for something other than splashing me in the face.
My daughter won’t be tackling an Iron Man anytime soon. She will not jump into the pool on her own without holding onto my arms, although several kids in her class did this enthusiastically. She’s not quite a natural in the water and would still prefer to play than practice what she learned in her lessons.
But she’s three. And next year, when the summer rolls around, I’m signing her up for another round of lessons. I couldn’t be more happy with her first lesson experience at the club.