Frequently Asked Questions About Swim Lessons


Why should I have my child learn to swim?

Drowning is the number one killer of children 0 – 15 years of age.  Learning to swim is the best way to prevent drowning.  70% of the world’s surface is water; that means that your child’s chances of encountering an activity that involves water is great.    

When should I start my child in swim lessons?

There are many differing opinions about when to start.  Some experts recommend starting as early as 6 weeks, where the infants still has a breath-holding reflex.  Most will recommend (with parents in the water) 6 months to 1 year for starting.   Others encourage waiting until the child is four to five years old, so that they are able to follow directions and have developed some balance, strength and coordination. If your family spends and time around the water, then water safety and swimming skills need to be introduced as early as possible.      

How often should my child take swim lessons?

Swimmers will learn better with more lessons.  Whether it is once- a-week during the school year and every day in the summer, or twice-a-week year ‘round, the results will be good with that much exposure.    Swimming is a skill that takes practice.  You don’t learn over-night and you can’t retain the skills year-to-year without practice.  The problems that many students and parents face are availability, affordability and scheduling.   Is there a program close by?  Is there room in our every day family schedule?   Can we afford all the lessons?  Everyone’s situation is different, but a continuing regiment of lessons throughout the year is best.  Parents and students get frustrated when they are not as good at the beginning of “this summer” as they were at the end of “last summer”, yet they had no lessons or only a few exposures to swimming all during the school year.   

How do I know when my child can swim adequately?

All three major learn to swim programs in the US (SwimAmerica, American Red Cross and YMCA) agree that the need for a good endurance base and the ability to swim at least 200 yards continuously using a variety of strokes is the minimum standard to be considered proficient in the water. At the same time there is never any guarantee that there won’t be an accident.  No one is “drown- proof”! 

How long does it take for the average child (6-12years) or adult to learn to swim?

The average child takes approximately 30 hours of swimming lessons before he/she can swim consistently and confidently 25 yards of the pool freestyle.  This is only an average. It may take some kids more and some kids less.  Adults who are starting for the first time usually take around 20 hours.   

Adults tend to have more fear of the water, but since they can think abstractly and have more coordination and strength, they learn at a faster pace.  There are always exceptions.  Students in their teens are usually very fast learners. 

Why should my child take lessons when they already “know how to swim”?

After your child has successfully completed a nationally recognized program (this could happen as young as 8 or 9 years old) the best advice is that they take at least one session of an organized swimming program per year.  This could be swimming lessons, a summer league or year ‘round swim team, synchronized swimming, diving, water polo, or even scuba.  Some facilities offer Junior Guard programs as well as Lifeguard classes.    Many adults find that they forgot how to swim after several years of not being in the water or having someone correct their stroke.  Children forget year-to-year if they don’t have the structure and practice time.   

How can I help my child be successful in the swimming lessons?

All students need times when they can learn through exploration.  Take your child to the pool for Family Swim time.  Swimming is a sport or recreational activity that will last a lifetime.  Your child, whether he/she is a beginner or more advanced, needs to go to the pool and have time just to play.   

This is also a time when children will begin to practice and develop important skills and techniques while they are having fun.  Many children only go to the pool for class and so never get any practice time or enjoyment from being there.   Children whose parents show enjoyment for the water tend to learn faster that those who have parents who don’t.   

Playing in the pool also build the child’s strength, stamina and general skills.  Going to the pool and playing with your child under safe, supervised conditions is one of the best ways to help your child be successful in swimming lessons.

What are the competitive swimming strokes?

There are four (4) competitive strokes and two (2) “lifesaving” strokes.  The 4 competitive strokes are: 

Freestyle / Front Crawl:  This is an alternating, over-arm stroke using the flutter kick.   The face is in the water and breathing is done by turning the head to the side every 2 or 3 strokes.  Freestyle is the most efficient stroke for speed and distance. 

Backstroke / Back Crawl:  The same alternating arm motion and kick as freestyle is used, but it is done on the back. 

Breaststroke:  This is a both a competitive and a survival stroke.  It is done on the front with the arms working together in a circular sculling motion, raising the head forward to breath.  The kick is also done in a circular motion simulating a frog’s kick.  

Butterfly :  This is a competitive stroke where the arms recover simultaneously over the water and pull simultaneously under the water.  The kick is the dolphin kick. 

The two (2) lifesaving strokes are: 

Elementary Backstroke:  This is used as a survival stroke.  It is performed by sliding both hands up the sides of the body to the shoulders and then extending the arms out, away from the body, and pushing the hands down toward the feet back to the starting position.   

The kick is a breaststroke kick (frog kick) modified for the back position.  There is a glide after the completion of the stroke. 

Sidestroke:  This stroke is used for lifeguarding and as a resting stroke.   It is done in a side floating position with the face out of the water.