swim lesson tips

Tips For Choosing The Right Kind Of Swim Lessons For Your Child

Even though Summer just ended swim lessons is still something we should keep in mind! During the warmer months you may plan a trip to the lake, a neighbor’s pool, heading to the local water park, or community center, one thing’s for certain; it’s important that our kids learn to swim!

Swimming risks

According to the CDC, drawing is one of the top FIVE causes of death for children ages 1-14, and children between the ages of 1-4 have the highest drowning rates. And it is important to note that most of these drownings occur in a swimming pool.

Parents, adults, teens, and small children should always operate under the assumption that ANYONE can drown on a bad day, even in shallow water. Luckily there are many ways to prevent a drowning incident from occurring.

Preventative measures

Luckily, there are many ways that you can increase your child’s safety when entering a body of water. Below are some of the most common.

Life jackets

Life jackets and other life-preserving flotation devices are a great way to keep your child safe and give them some independent freedom when they are swimming. While traditional arm floaties are an option for many families, keep in mind that this creates a muscle memory of swimming vertically.

In swim lessons, we teach our students that “flat is fast”. Meaning, if a child can get their body in a positing that is parallel to the bottom of the pool with their head in the water, they can move much more quickly to safety, as opposed to treading water vertically, which can become tiring very quickly.

Life jackets allow kids to transition from vertical to horizontal with greater ease.

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Pool alarms and gates

These devices typically float on the surface of the water, attach to the side of the pool, or utilize a bracelet that your child can wear on their wrist (or attach to your pet’s collar).

The idea behind the pool floats is that a loud, piercing alarm is set off when the water is disrupted. The devices range from simple alarms sounds to in-app controls, to underwater camera detection.

It is important to know that these kinds of devices should not be a substitute for proper supervision of children in the water.

These should be thought of like a worst-case scenario back up, in the event of an emergency. To see a side by side comparison for some of the most popular pool alarms on the market is available here.

Pool gates are another added safety measure to help keep young swimmers out of the water until they are supervised.

Many states have laws that require pool gates. For a detailed explanation of Nevada’s pool gate criteria, click here.

Swim lessons

kids swim lessons

Hands down, the most effective way to make sure your child stays safe in the water, is to enroll them in a form of swim instruction. Swim lessons range in method, price, and duration and different types of lessons may work better for different types of kids.

Group lessons

Group lessons typically range from a 2:1 or a 4:1 ratio of students to instructors. The pros are that younger swimmers get a slow, low-risk approach to swim instruction as progression is typically based on levels.

Kids who have a high fear of the water get a chance to ease into a routine that is comfortable.

The cons of group lessons are that the actual swim time and personal instruction tends to be lower, as the instructor has to maneuver between one and three other students.

If you need your child to learn to swim quickly, this may not be the best route.

Private lessons

Private lessons are a 1:1 ration where one swimmer is working with one instructor, typically for 20-30 minutes.

Instruction tends to be more fast-paced to teach floating, horizontal swimming with head in the water, breathing, and self-rescue in a short amount of time.

While cautious swimmers may be anxious in the beginning, their confidence tends to build quickly in the water the more they swim.

Progression tends to happen more quickly with private lessons.

The cons are that private lessons can be more expensive. They also work more effectively when lessons are taken consecutively for 5-10 days, which may be difficult to schedule if your family schedule is busy.


Infant Swimming Resource is a 1:1 private lesson approach to swimming that emphasizes water rescue and survival.

Infants as young as 6 months can learn to self roll from front to back in the event of an accidental fall into the water.

This is a great method to consider if you have a pool at home or spend a lot of time in the water.

As ISR students progress in skill and age, children then learn to roll to their back for air, and then back to their belly to continue swimming.

When choosing ISR for your child, be sure that the instructor is certified to teach ISR and possesses an approved certificate for your review.

What to look for when choosing the best type of swim lessons for your child:

  • Is your child learning basic life-saving skills? This includes: what to do if they accidentally fall in from the side or off a step, how to safely navigate away from someone pulling them under, what to do if they fall off a large pool float, or how to help if someone is drowning near them.
  • How much actual swimming is taking place? Is there more playing than swimming happening? If you are paying for one group lesson a week for a long period of time, saving for private lessons might give you better results in a shorter amount of time.
  • Is the environment where lessons are taking place safe, clean, and well maintained?
  • How experienced is your instructor and what certifications or experience do they possess? Do not hesitate to ask for references.
  • Is the instructor encouraging while also pushing for progression?
  • Are goggles permitted with young, inexperienced swimmers? While goggles keep your swimmer’s eyes comfortable, consider the worst-case scenario. If they were to fall in a pool by accident, would they be able to open their eyes and find a safe wall or step? Be sure that they can self rescue both with and without goggles.

What age should I start my child in swim lessons?

kids swim lessons

This question can best be answered by looking at what your goals are for your child and how much time they are in the water.

Households that have a pool on sight which they use regularly, may want to start their children younger.

My recommendation is, to begin with swim lessons around the two or three-year mark.

Keep in mind that the longer you wait to teach your child to swim, the harder it may be for them to learn, especially if they are overly fearful of the water and getting their face wet.

As parents, there are so many factors to consider when keeping our kids safe in the water.

Helpful hints to increase water awareness and safety:

  • Regardless of their ability, if your child is in the water, you should either be in the water with them or sitting next to the pool distraction-free (books, cell phones, etc put away).
  • Keep easy to grab floatation devices near the pool. Things like noodles and kickboards can be handed to a child or even adult if they appear to be in distress.
  • Teach younger children how to swim away from other swimmers in distress and help them by extending a noodle or getting an adult. Kids can drown when pulled under by a nearby swimmer who is struggling (your swim school should be teaching various scenarios for kids to practice water safety and self-rescue).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask QUESTIONS! You are paying for a service and therefore are entitled to know about their progression or ask about any methods being used to teach them.

Keep in mind that every child’s experience in the water is different. Kids who love the water in floaties may not love it when the floaties are removed and they are asked to swim independently.

While we as parents want to be an integral part of our child’s progress, I am a firm believer that kids oftentimes learn a skill better when taught by someone who is not their parent.

Even after teaching swim lessons for many years, I still do not teach my own kids in the summer!

Do what’s best for your family

Talk to your friends, read reviews, and do your research when choosing the right swim lessons for your child. What worked or didn’t work may not always be the case with your family so know that it is always ok to switch up the approach.

Megan Rix Northern Nevada Moms
Megan Rix

Megan Rix is a former at-risk high school English teacher turned stay at home mama, lifestyle blogger, and entrepreneur. After leaving the classroom to focus on being a mama, she needed a place to document the life of her very strong-willed child and what she realized along the way were all the things in her life that “anchored” her. A love for food, beauty, family, and giving back to others helped shape the blog as it looks today.