, , , , , , , ,

I had a surreal moment a few weeks ago.

I joined each of my kids – now 6 and 3 – in the water at swim lessons for Parents Day.

At the pool I learned to swim at.

And first started competitive swimming at.

And then taught swimming lessons at and coached novice competitive swimming at through high school and university.

Because my daughters’ classes were at different times, my mom came to watch one while I was in the water with the other.

So basically? My mom watched me do swim lessons. Sort of like old times back in the colourful swim days:

Back in the 80s and 90s! Before we were just numbers!

Back in the 80s and 90s! Before we were just numbers! (FYI the next – and last – four were Blue, Green, Grey, White!) Links to source.

That bit of nostalgia aside, I got to confirm that both my kids would be moving on to the next level and are progressing nicely.

Which is great, because my youngest has been stuck in Salamander – level 2 of 5 of the preschool program – since last fall, and this is my eldest’s second time in Swim Kids 3 (of 10).


The Red Cross Preschool Program (beyond the Parent & Me stage) for 3-5 year-olds: Sea Otter, Salamander, Sunfish, Crocodile and Whale!

Given my swim history, it was a given my kids were going to learn how to swim. They don’t have to love my sport but they have to learn to swim. I think it’s important for safety, as well as a great way to stay active and encourage physical confidence in kids.

I’ve been swimming weekly with my kids for fun since they were 3-months-old. Given this, and where we’re at now in our learn to swim journey, I thought I’d share a few reflections on our journey to date.

  1. Swimming Lessons are Worth It

You might wonder with my background why I don’t just teach my kids myself. The honest answer is because that would take away the fun of just swimming with them. I don’t want them to remember our swim outings as “Those times where Mommy drilled me on back floats, side glides and forced me to tread water for 5 minutes.” Another perspective and adult in their life is also always welcome. As is the chance to learn the “rules” of lessons and the chance to simply play with other kids.

2. Taking a Break from Lessons is also Worth It

Confession time: I thought I’d be the mom of those awesome three-year-olds that could already swim lengths of the pool. I’m not. My mother didn’t help this aspirational daydreaming with her tales of my younger brother’s first time in the pool where – if you believe the rose-tinting of her hindsight – he simply pushed off her belly at 3-months old and swam off. Suffice to say my kids weren’t quite that fishy.

And while I taught many a preschooler to swim in my instructor days, as an instructor I never really thought about whether it was the 3-year-olds or the 5-year-olds who were “getting it”.

As a parent, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes my kids just aren’t developmentally ready to do something. And that’s okay.

3. Listen to the Instructor & it’s (REALLY) not a Contest

Swimming lessons are about water safety and teaching kids to swim. If you are in the market for a contest, try competitive swimming (once they CAN swim, of course). But getting back to preschoolers and lessons-land, don’t just automatically put your kid in the next level. Make sure they actually passed.

Nobody wins when kids “move up” before they are ready. Those kids hold the others back because the teacher has to focus more on them. And those kids feel bad because they usually know they are behind the rest of the class. They would benefit far more from staying in the lower level and mastering the skills needed before moving on. Also, teaching kids that they don’t automatically just pass is character building.

Lastly? Even if you disagree with the instructor, if they don’t think your kid is ready for the next level, they probably aren’t. Speak to them if you aren’t sure to find out what your child needs to work on before moving up. My worst memories as a swim instructor? Parents pushing me to pass their kid when they weren’t ready. My absolute worst memory as a swim instructor? Watching my very young boss cave to an overbearing parent who complained to him about me “failing” his kid and giving him the badge anyway despite having never seen the kid swim. Aside from my learning the valuable lesson that sometimes managers throw their staff under busses, nobody won there. I watched that kid flail (along with the instructor who had to deal with him) in the next level the following session.

4. Go to Parents Day

There is usually a lesson (ONLY ONE!!! once you move beyond the Parent and Me years!) where parents are invited to join the class. Go. Even if you aren’t a strong swimmer. They’ll give you a noodle, or you can opt out of the deep end bits (if there are any). Even if you are self-conscious about your body. Your kid doesn’t care about any of that. They’re just excited you are there. It will also give you the chance to talk to the instructor and see how they think your child is doing. In my case, last session it also gave the instructor the chance to point out that I’d taught HIM swimming lessons! I also agreed with him not passing my kid then, which I think probably helped with the moment and the fact I didn’t remember him (20-year-olds look different than 6-year-olds!).

5. Do your homework and ask questions

Yes, listen to the instructor and staff, but if something doesn’t make sense, ask. The pool’s a busy place. The receptionist you speak to might have no idea what to register your newly minted 6-year-old in who has passed Crocodile. On that count, courtesy of the University of Saskachewan, here’s a chart:

Links to source.

And they deal with a lot of kids. Last session, they gave my 3-year-old the wrong report card. I knew from having spoken to the teacher that she was passing, so the report card made no sense. Quick check, revision, and we were on our way.

Another example? With young preschoolers, consider WHAT KIND of pool to register at if you have options. My eldest got cold very quickly at three and hated being where she couldn’t stand. So we did the early pre-school levels at a warmer water pool with a beach front entry.

So to conclude? PARENTAL PRIDE MOMENT (pretend this is Facebook!):


But mostly? I love that they are loving swimming.

What about you? Any tips for preschool swimming?