Choosing a Swim School

Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% if children participate in formal swimming lessons between ages 1 – 4. Swimming has also shown to improve sleep quality, increase cognitive skills development, and offer a healthy activity for growing bodies. But where do you start in looking for a swim school? Here are some things to look for: 

  • Developmentally and age appropriate activities and learning
  • A positive and fun environment that focuses on the needs of the learner
  • Progressive development with rewards along the way to keep your swimmer motivated and excited to learn, remember learning to swim is a process
  • A friendly and helpful staff that is inclusive and strives to meet your family’s needs, one that includes parents in the process
  • A safe environment with vigilant supervision by staff with completed background checks, proper use of equipment and water safety training included in lessons
  • Well qualified staff with ongoing training
  • A clean facility that includes clear, well sanitized water
  • Small class sizes for young children and beginners as well as shorter lessons in warm water for young children
  • Professionalism, including participation in a national association such as the US Swim School Association

What should I look for when choosing swim lessons?

From: American Academy of Pediatrics

Look for classes and instructors that follow guidelines focused not just on swim stroke techniques, but broader water survival competency skills. All children should learn how to get back to the surface from under water, propel themselves at least 25 yards, and get out of the water, for example. Instructors should evaluate children’s progress and give ongoing feedback on their skill levels.

For children of all ages, look for programs that:
  • Have experienced, qualified instructors. Swim instructors should be trained and certified through a nationally recognized learn-to-swim curriculum. There should also be lifeguards on duty who have current CPR and First Aid certification.
  • Teach good safety habits in, on, and near water. Children should learn to never swim alone or without adult supervision. Instructors should teach children to always ask for permission from parents, lifeguards, or swimming instructors before they get into a pool or natural bodies of water like a lake.
  • Teach what to do if they end up in the water unexpectedly. This includes practicing water competency skills such as self-rescue. Lessons should provide training with a variety of realistic conditions, such as falling in and swimming in clothes. Older children also should learn what to do if they see someone else in the water who is struggling, and how to get help.
  • Let you watch a class first to see first-hand if it is right for your child. Not all swim lessons are created equal, and parents should investigate options to choose the best fit. Are they swimming most of the time, or are there long periods of inactivity where they are waiting for their turn? Do children get one-on-one attention? Are the instructors friendly and knowledgeable?
  • Require multiple sessions. Once children start lessons, you should be able to see gradual but consistent progress in their abilities over time. Continue lessons at least until your they master basic water competency skills.In addition, for children under age 4, look for programs that:
  • Provide an age-appropriate atmosphere. Your child should feel safe and secure during lessons, with activities that support their social, intellectual, physical, and emotional development. However, children need to develop a healthy respect for water, as well.
  • Include “touch supervision.” Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water—even during swim lessons―an adult should be within arm’s reach to provide “touch supervision.” Parent participation should be encouraged, especially since it also helps families know what to practice in between classes. If you can’t be in the water with your child, look for private classes that offer 1-on-1 instruction.
  • Maintain water purity. Young children are more likely to swallow or breathe in water, so water disinfection and maintaining proper chlorine levels is really important. A good program should also require the child to wear a swimsuit that is snug-fitting at the legs to help avoid spreading body waste into the water.
  • Keep the water warm. Hypothermia is a greater risk at this age. Ideally, swim and water safety classes for children age 3 and younger should be in water heated to 87 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit.