AIBU to think swimming is a basic skill for children?

(86 Posts)
whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 10:02:59

A friend of mine has DD (8) who can't swim. I don't mean she can't swim well, I mean at all. AIBU to be a bit shocked by this? I always thought it was an essential skill to learn. I only learned this because I invited her DD to a sailing event for kids, and of course she can't go because they need to be able to swim. Her mum was very blah about it and said there was no time and her DD would learn when she was ready. Huh? This is a child who does every activity going - every day after school there's some club or something, plus at weekends.

Yes I do know it's none of my business and I should unhoick my judgypants. But what do MNers think?

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 10:54:56

Is she scared of water?

Startail Thu 07-Mar-13 11:00:55

I'm guessing she doesn't swim and possibly has some bad memories of her own or her DH has.

Very difficult for the child, because at 8 pools drop their supervision rules and it's likely to be the default Birthday party.

I hired both our local pools as it's the cheapest way of entertaining the whole class and exact numbers don't matter.

fieldfare Thu 07-Mar-13 11:02:53

The ability to swim is such an important life skill to have! I don't understand people not taking their children swimming from tiny and at least teaching them the basics. It's fun, cheap, great exercise and an important thing to learn.

mmmuffins Thu 07-Mar-13 11:05:45

I think it is dangerous not to teach your children to swim. What if they fall in pool/pond/lake/river etc

bangwhizz Thu 07-Mar-13 11:06:03

It isn't cheap to swim here £4.50 per adult and £3.50 per child

diddl Thu 07-Mar-13 11:07:41

I would think that it's unusual, but really-meh!

Sparklingbrook Thu 07-Mar-13 11:09:42

Children should all be able to swim IMO.

Plus when school swimming lessons start in Year 3/4 they don't want to be in the bottom group while everyone else is swimming lengths.

anotherbrewplease Thu 07-Mar-13 11:10:54

Maybe she has other children and they all do lots of activities and they can't afford the time/money to pay for swimming lessons.

YABU and a bit judgy. I say this as my 7 year old can't swim, and yes I'm blah about it, and yes we will get round to it. But no, it is not the END of the world as we know it! My older children are now proficient swimmers and do just fine. And learned when 6+

Is that ok??

lockets Thu 07-Mar-13 11:14:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Flobbadobs Thu 07-Mar-13 11:15:31

Its great and useful if they can but some children just can't! DS has been going swimming since year 4 both at school and private lessons. He does other sport to town level but swimming is a blind spot for him. He had the floating ability of a brick if I'm being honest and no amount of swimming lessons up to now have been able to do anything about it. Group or 121, total failure.
Thank God he seems to have got a decent teacher at high school, he can now at least float and do a few strokes without an aid. Fortunately he has been getting support off his classmates too, they cheered him when he managed itgrin
It looks like DD1 is a little fish though and hopefully when DD2 starts going to the pool after Easter she will copy her sister's example!

Depends. DD1 (5) can't swim. She'll start at school in a couple of months but we don't live near water anywhere at all, we don't come across many rivers and lakes. Her cousins have been having swimming lessons for years and don't seem especially proficient. Can't say it bothers me too much.

I couldn't swim at 8. Somehow I survived to adulthood hmm

I agree it is a good skill to have, but it may be that she is scared of the water and her mother is deliberately keeping it low-key until she feels ready to have a try.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 11:26:28

Yes, I do think it's a basic life skill. I live near the sea though and the beach forms a big part of our life - I wonder how much that affects my point of view. Having said that, water is everywhere - lakes, rivers etc. Giving your kids the ability to help themselves, if only for a few seconds to give someone time to reach them, is vital.
My four year old fell into a swimming pool not long ago - we were there playing, she was on the side and I was in the water. I reached her in under five seconds but in that time she had not panicked, she'd kicked her way up to the surface and managed to turn herself round and get back to and hold on to the side. That's what the lessons have all been aiming for. I now feel happy that even if she falls in somewhere, she is confident enough in water to give herself a bit of extra time for someone to get to her.
And not being able to swim does kind of cut you out of any parties or other fun stuff that goes on around water - swimming, rowing, canoeing - might be a birthday party, might be something that is organised with guide camp or similar.
I think it's the fact that it's a safety issue that migth make me judge - you can't keep them away from every body of water and you can't eliminate all risks. All you can do is equip them as best you can to be able to help themselves.

MerylStrop Thu 07-Mar-13 11:30:27

I love swimming

But not to be able to swim at 8 is no biggie

When we were kids we started swimming lessons aged 9 ish.

I refuse to take the DC to the half hour of weekly stress and hell for group lessons, which some of their friends go to -- and have appeared to be entirely ineffective--

whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 11:36:46

Anotherbrew, no other children and no, money isn't an issue, but time, yes. Glad your older DCs proficient now.

As a couple of posters have pointed out, it's a bit of a safety issue.
Is that ok?

whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 11:38:11

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't swimming part of the NC?

iismum Thu 07-Mar-13 11:39:40

To be honest, I think the safety thing is a bit of a myth. Of course if a child falls in water they are more likely to survive if they can swim. But statistically, children who are confident around water are much more likely to fall in and get themselves into trouble than children who can't - non-swimmers are generally very cautious around water, swimmers often have a very inflated sense of their own ability to cope (which is usually pretty minimal in cold, rough, outdoor water).

lockets Thu 07-Mar-13 11:42:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Tanith Thu 07-Mar-13 11:49:57

My DS couldn't swim for years, despite lessons at school. He just couldn't do it.
It took a very patient teacher over a year of intensive lessons for him to get it and, even then, he's not a strong swimmer.

YABU and you're making a lot of assumptions.

ElvisIsKing Thu 07-Mar-13 11:51:31

Of course it's a good skill to have but what about those, like me, who worry whether the mortgage will be paid this month (and every month actually)? How do we afford these swimming lessons/trips to the swimming pool? Makes me very upset if I think about it too much as most of my DC's friends are having swimming lessons atm (DS is in yr 1)

Even if your friend can afford swimming lessons, yes it is a bit judgey on your part, she clearly doesn't think it's a life skill. Yabu

akaemmafrost Thu 07-Mar-13 11:55:55

Dd is 6 and still needs arm bands. She'll get to it. Ds has private swimming lessons but dd doesn't want to, I am not too worried.

FriendlyLadybird Thu 07-Mar-13 12:00:41

I agree that it's good to be able to swim. I wouldn't be shocked if a child could not swim at 8 though. My DS couldn't -- he can't float and didn't like putting his face in the water. It was only really about six months ago (when he was 10) that he got the hang of it. He swims like a fish now, although only freestyle.

Oh and the lessons we paid for were rubbish. And those that he did at school. It was my DH who taught him.

Sparklingbrook Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:16

It's not really the safety thing although that's important. It was holidays at the seaside, holiday clubs that involve swimming, and in the last few years residential trips that include bell boating and swimming as part of the course. i didn't want not being able to swim meant they would miss out IYKWIM.

limitedperiodonly Thu 07-Mar-13 12:04:53

I think it is and like lots of things it's easier to learn when you're young because you're usually not scared or self-conscious.

Obviously I'm not judging anyone who can't afford it or whose child is actually scared.

DH grew up in a coastal town and they didn't have a swimming pool. Maybe the council thought you could learn in the sea. I'm a good swimmer and you wouldn't get me near the cold and the conger eels grin

When we go on holiday he loves going in the sea to cool off but one look at his panicked little face if he can't feel the bottom is really sad and I do keep a discreet eye on him from the beach.

bassingtonffrench Thu 07-Mar-13 12:05:17


I second what iismum says. An overconfident child who can swim is far more at risk of drowning than a child who knows they can't swim and won't attempt to.

So what if she couldn't go sailing? There are plenty of other things to do. And 8 is very young still.

I take my child swimming for the exercise. I must say the changing room experience is very depressing with a lot of shouty, pushy parents with over-tired over-stressed children.

I admire your friend for feeling like she doesn't have to bother just yet.

whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 12:06:16

Tanith what assumptions am I making?

CMOTDibbler Thu 07-Mar-13 12:11:58

She's 8, not 18 - its not like she'll be hanging around lakes and rivers unsupervised yet.

Good for her mum for being relaxed about it - I didn't learn till I was 8, and that was normal then. And could swim perfectly well by the time rowing/canoeing etc came into the picture

limitedperiodonly Thu 07-Mar-13 12:13:22

Some friends keep inviting us to go sailing with them and DH keeps turning them down. I'm sure he's too ashamed to tell them he can't swim.

I don't mind really because it saves me from having to say 'no, because there isn't enough room for all my luggage.'

Tanith Thu 07-Mar-13 12:13:22

You need me to tell you? It's all there already.

You are assuming you know why this child can't swim; that, if only the mother would arrange extra lessons - after all, the child goes to so many extra activities and this one is, in your opinion, the most important of all - the child would be swimming in no time.

Doesn't happen that way. Even if your assumptions are right.

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 12:14:56

Well, the people who make loads of moneynout of running swimming lessons have certainly convinced us it is.......

SillyTilly123 Thu 07-Mar-13 12:17:14

I have 3 children so i cannot take them swimming on my own (dp will not go swimming) and i cannot afford swimming lessons which means my 9 year old cannot swim. She is confident in the water but just hasn't got the rhythmn right. Not to mention my city only has an 'olympic' pool which does not have a shallow end, and my kids will only go in water if they can touch the bottom. Not everyone has the money for lessons (i wish i did, i love swimming-but no good at teaching it)

Tanith Thu 07-Mar-13 12:17:42

Sorry - should have said "doesn't always happen like that" smile

mrsstewpot Thu 07-Mar-13 12:18:11
Katnisscupcake Thu 07-Mar-13 12:21:28

I've only taken my DD swimming once in my DM's pool (which is outside and unfortunately thanks to our lovely British weather - when even the best Summer weather NEVER seems to coincide with weekends - we don't get much opportunity to use the pool). She's nearly 4.

I would love her to learn to swim but I don't want to go in the pool with her. I am very self-conscious about my body-image (from when I was young) and that's what stops me. I am thinking of investing in some lessons, but she's so shy I don't think she'll go in without me confused.

I HAD to learn to swim at an early age, I am one of 5 and all the others swim like fish. Embarassingly for Mum, I hated it. Embarassing for her because she was in the reserves for the Olympic Swimming Team in her teens and early 20s and would train for 6 hours a day!

I do believe that it's really important - but my own fears/insecurities are stopping me...

Peevish Thu 07-Mar-13 12:31:59

I think the importance of swimming can be overemphasised, and agree with whoever said up the thread that there is a huge rip-off industry with a vested interest in convincing us our children will drown unless they start Water Babies or the like before they turn six months.

I grew up where it wasn't on the national curriculum, and in a family much too poor to afford lessons or even regular swimming pool trips. Neither of my parents can swim, it never occurred to them to have us taught, and the common denominator is that they and we grew up poor and working-class in an inner city - no bodies of water around, no holidays by the sea, no sailing lessons, no friends with pools. So to be honest, not a crucial life skill for us, in those circumstances. It would have been a middle-class frill.

Having said that, I am going to ensure my baby learns, as he will have a different kind of life to mine. But I'm not panicking that he's turning one without having had a single lesson yet. He has plenty of time.

mrsstewpot Thu 07-Mar-13 12:33:03

Actually this one's better - has a toddler swimming to the side of the pool to save himself!

Runwayqueen Thu 07-Mar-13 12:47:52

For various reasons I consider myself a non swimmer, my parents tried everything but I just couldn't do it.

Dd will be 3 in June and after a week at Center parcs she is so happy in the water. It's inspired me to have some adult swimming lessons as I want to feel confident being in the water with her. Her lessons are now booked and hopefully she won't be like me.


MiaowTheCat Thu 07-Mar-13 12:57:33

Soon as mine hit a manageable age they'll be booked in for swimming lessons - it's one thing me and DH agree utterly on. My parents live on a riverbank, his parents live on the side of a loch - there's no way we're taking the chances of having non-swimmers, even WITH close supervision and precautions.

Only reason we don't take DD1 now is that I can't climb the ladder in and out of the pool being the size of a small house and wracked with SPD.

MyDarlingClementine Thu 07-Mar-13 13:00:14

I learned at 11 big shakes.

There are lots of true essentials; I hope your child is up on all of them.

poshme Thu 07-Mar-13 13:07:15

angryTo the person who said they think parents should always take kids to swim from when they're tiny and teach them
1) it's really expensive
2) if you have more than 1 child it's really difficult- I couldn't supervise my toddler and hold my baby swimming, and once I had 3 kids I wasn't allowed to take them swimming on my own.
And once the oldest started school, the toddler couldn't learn, as I had the baby, and all lessons expected me to swim with the toddler- what was I supposed to do with the baby?
I would love it if my kids could swim, and the older 2 nearly can- but as I can't take them, it's hard to get in the practise.

Thumbwitch Thu 07-Mar-13 13:09:23

My MIL lives on the edge of a lake. We have a swimming pool. It's a non-negotiable essential life skill here. Too many toddlers here drown in swimming pools - might not be the case in the UK, but it is here.

stretch Thu 07-Mar-13 13:18:50

My 11 year old can't swim. She had lessons through school in yr 3 for 3 months, then yr 4 for 3 months. Our school take the view that that is sufficient.

I have 4 (11, 7, 4 and 3) children, I cannot take them swimming on my own obv, I cannot take them to lessons (no car or regular childcare for the others) DH has very little interest in swimming, he works every other weekend so we can't commit to lessons then either. Money is an issue as well. I want her, and the others to be able to swim, but I don't see how we could manage.

YABU and YABU to be so judgey. Just because in your world children should be swimming at x years old, doesn't mean everybody thinks the same way.

olgaga Thu 07-Mar-13 13:22:24

Me and DH are both keen, good swimmers. Both learned to swim in the sea, then I went on to swim for a club. So you'd think our DD (12) would be a "natural" with all our encouragement. She doesn't mind a bit of splashing about, but actual swimming, learning to swim - she's just not interested.

We've tried and tried, but all she wants to do is play. She is nervous about floating.

So, it's not that we haven't tried, it's not that she hasn't done lessons, it's not that she hasn't had loads of encouragement and support.

She just doesn't like it.

Both our mums hated swimming, by the way. MIL never swam, only paddled. My mum would do a bit of breaststroke if she was feeling brave, but couldn't stand to get her face wet. So maybe DD has inherited it from them.

I've been to a lot of public swimming pools in this country - both leisure centre and holiday parks - and I think on the whole they are pretty off-putting for children once they achieve a certain level of awareness. Changing rooms that stink of pee, overcrowding, verrucas, grit in the bottom of the pool, slippery, unsafe surfaces (I got a nasty cut on the ball of my foot from a sharp tile-edge once), kids running around like lunatics, pool supervisors who are little more than children themselves.

The result is she's perfectly safe around water as she just doesn't bother with it - or if she does she always makes sure of the depth. We're always with her anyway. She might want to learn when she's older, we do still ask her occasionally.

Pool parties? She just wouldn't go. There are enough parties to go to which aren't held in swimming pools!

Yannah2006 Thu 07-Mar-13 13:28:40

Totally agree, swimming is a life skill.

DS doesn't particularly enjoy his lessons (he thinks they're ok, he'd prefer to be doing judo or something) but i've told him it's compulsory until he's a competent swimmer. I can't understand why any parent wouldn't do the same- it's so important!

We also struggle to afford the lessons, but we save hard for them because we think it's such a basic skill that he has to learn.

Surely if a child is scared of the water, that issue needs to be sorted?

Yannah2006 Thu 07-Mar-13 13:30:56

I also couldn't give a monkeys about technique or strokes. All i need to know is that he'd be safe if he ever fell in water.

olgaga Thu 07-Mar-13 14:31:08

Surely if a child is scared of the water, that issue needs to be sorted?

I think that's easier said than done! We tried everything - private lessons in a non-crowded pool etc. It wasn't even fear in our case, she just didn't particularly enjoy it and preferred other activities.

I think many kids appreciate lessons more when they are older - and there's nothing wrong with that. It could be fear, but it can also be simple lack of interest which they grow out of as they mature and gain confidence. Peer pressure helps too when they are older, and start to actually want to learn for the first time.

I think it's far more dangerous when parents imagine that because their child has learned to swim for 20m, and float in a swimming pool, that they are "safe" in the water!

Yannah2006 Thu 07-Mar-13 14:42:05

olgaga absolutely agree that it doesn't mean they're totally safe, but at least it gives them a fighting chance. If a child can't swim, their chances of surviving a fall in the water are practically 0.

And no, i doubt curing a phobia of water is easy in the slightest, but i'd personally prefer to give it a try, rather than hoping for the best and leaving it to chance that my child would never find themselves in a situation where they needed to swim.

ReallyTired Thu 07-Mar-13 14:48:17

I'm a crap mother in that my son could not swim until he was nearly seven. He had severe ENT problems and we were told by the ENT consultant not to take him swimming.

Ds learnt very quickly with one to one tutition. After a year of one to one lessons he was stage 4 swimming standard.

An 8 year old will learn very quickly to swim and she will have lessons through school. A lot of the children in ds's school could not swim in year 5, but nearly all of them could manage 25m after 2 terms of swimming lessons.

SnotMeReally Thu 07-Mar-13 14:53:55

there are 2 main "types" of children drowning incidents - very young toddlers - left unsupervised in a garden with pond/pool - everyone thinks someone else is watching them sad

and the cocky dare devil teens doing daft stunts BECAUSE they can swim and think they are immortal (tombstoning, walking on iced over lakes, drifting off out to sea on lilos etc)

so supervision and common sense are just as important as learning to swim!

Tailtwister Thu 07-Mar-13 15:10:41

I think it's preferable for children to learn to swim as young as possible. However, not everyone has the resources (money or time) to do it before school age. Does your friend's daughter not swim with the school?

freddiefrog Thu 07-Mar-13 15:19:22

I guess it depends where you live, interests, etc

We're coastal, one direction is sea, the other a river.

Here it's sailing mad, you're taught to sail or row as young as possible, it's all part of life here - socially most people either belong to the sailing club or the rowing club, everyone's social lives revolve around it, our area's economy relies on it, most local employment involves water in one way or another so for us swimming, and sailing were good skills for my girls to learn

Even stuff like hanging around with their mates is done in close proximity to water so the ability for them to get themselves out of trouble if need be was important for me

SneakyNinja Thu 07-Mar-13 16:06:47

Yabu. The 'importance' of learning to swim should be based on circumstance. Yes, in an ideal world it's a good skill for children to have but personally, my lifestyle does not warrant the need to spend time and money forcing the ability as quickly as possible.
I was 7 when I learned. In the sea on holiday, it was fine.
When on holiday etc. We spend time in the pool or sea 'teaching' DS, but I do not live near a body of water, I do not know anyone with a pool so it is not a valued 'life skill' that I feel the need to push right now. He'll pick it up in his own time, 8 is not a ridiculous age imo.

barleysugar Thu 07-Mar-13 16:25:21

It's so expensive to learn to swim here, and I agree with the above poster who said its not feasible to take children swimming if you have a baby as well.

My dcs are 7 and 6 and cannot swim. They can float and splash and kick about though with armbands and that's good enough for me at the moment.

It's not like there's a window of opportunity to learn to swim is it, and if you somehow miss it, you can never ever learn.

pingu2209 Thu 07-Mar-13 16:28:00

I totally agree that swimming is a life skill. It could quite literally save someone's life.

However, swimming lessons are a minimum of £4/half hour session per child and it is not easy for non-drivers to get to swimming pools. Busses and a walk may be an option but taking 1 or more children on a bus when they are damp from swimming is no fun.

Additionally if swimming is on an evening busses don't always run.

It is a shame that there is a significant segment of society that are precluded from this basic life skill.

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 16:34:55

Well, it could save your life if you happened to fall into a canal, or a swimming pool- if you don't live near open water I'm not sure how it's going to be much use......! Mind you, pingu certainly needs to swim, so presumably so do his chicks..........

BackforGood Thu 07-Mar-13 16:42:43

I think - as you say - if the Mum has plenty of time and plenty of money, and has taken her dc to lots of other out of school activities, then I think she's really limiting her in the future, if swiimng hasn't been one she included.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why some people can't go to swimming lessons, but it doesn't sound as if this familiy fall into that category.
My dc have had all sorts of experiences, holidays, camps, and activities that they wouldn't have been able to do if they hadn't been taught to swim.

schadmissions Thu 07-Mar-13 17:08:56

There may also be a medical reason why children dont swim if they dont go at all even in arm bands. Parents may not want to discuss personal medical issues.

Cantbelieveitsnotbutter Thu 07-Mar-13 17:19:06

Pull them judgy pants a bit higher I'm 30 and can't swim. Neither can my mum.
I do take my son swimming as he is not a water fan, and I so want him to enjoy it and have the confidence me and my mum don't.

whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 17:24:33

I find it really sad that so many people cite cost as a reason for not being able to learn to swim or go swimming on a regular basis. Where I grew up it was one of the things that any kid could do for free, which is as it should be.

Sparklingbrook Thu 07-Mar-13 17:37:30

I think as a parent I am glad I can swim so I know I could jump in if my child was in trouble. Or anyone else for that matter I suppose.

Nandocushion Thu 07-Mar-13 17:41:15

Totally agree it's a life skill, OP. I was a swimmer at age 3 or something ridiculous. So of course I put DD in lessons from the age of 5 months, every single year, at least two seasons out of four...she's had group lessons, private lessons, indoor, outdoor, with friends, you name it. She loves the lessons and would be in the water all day if she could, but she STILL won't put her sodding face in the water or try to float, and she's now 7. Maybe that mum has had a similar experience and, like me, is giving it a break for a bit and doesn't feel like explaining.

Please can someone link to statistics regarding drowning and water confidence? It comes up all the time and no one seems to be able to back it up.

I do think the cost is atrocious though round here under 16s swim for free at certain times.

Enfyshedd Thu 07-Mar-13 19:02:30

Apparently I was swimming pretty well with armbands when I was 4/5, then I realised that my DM couldn't swim (slightly scared after being pushed into a pool by a swimming "teacher" back in the early 70's). I then decided that I couldn't swim and stayed that way until I was 10 when I was eventually taught to swim by a school friend while we were on a school residential course (we'd been having lessons during the previous term, but hadn't got very far - friend taught me & another classmate how to swim 5 metres in the space of 3 days!!!). By 6 months later, I had my 200m badge.

18 months ago, we were on holiday and DP, DSS1 & DSS2 decided to go to the hotel pool (DP doesn't ofter go swimming as he reacts to too much chlorine). This was a month after DSS2's school (which we had just moved him from after reception year as we had other concerns about it), which had its own pool & weekly swimming lessons, had issued an end of reception year report saying DSS2 was "confident in the water".

So he can swim, right? hmm

DP, DSS2 & DSS1 are lined up & walk down the steps into the pool together. All of a sudden, DP & DSS1 realise that then 5yo DSS2 is completely underwater and simultaneously dive to pull DSS2 above the water. DSS2's response?

"I forgot my helpers!" - He can't swim a stroke.

We don't have any swimming pools near us, and it costs about £5 per person to go to the nearest one by public transport plus the price of the pool itself, so swimming isn't really high up our list of preferred activities. Plus since DD's arrival 9.5mo ago, DP would have to come and suffer the chlorine if we wanted both DSS2 & DD in the water at the same time sad

Xmasbaby11 Thu 07-Mar-13 19:06:49

It's a safety issue and rules out a lot of other activities if you can't swim. It's easier to learn while you're young - can you imagine the embarrassment of learning from scratch as a teenager? I believe it's a necessity and far more important than dancing or whatever else the child does.

somewherewest Thu 07-Mar-13 19:25:43

I can't swim. Neither can any of my family. I can't say any of us have missed out. It might be a useful life skill, but I don't understand being shocked by the absence of it.

complexnumber Thu 07-Mar-13 19:37:51

Were they black?

I know that article is primarily about Black Americans, but it maybe similar fears and attitudes linger within the UK

Zara1984 Thu 07-Mar-13 19:39:45


It is so so easy for a child to drown in a very shallow amount of water. I am from NZ where it is definitely regarded as an essential, lifesaving skill!

I am constantly confused at the number of people over here that can't swim.

LynetteScavo Thu 07-Mar-13 19:49:32

YANBU to think swimming is a basic skill.

But there are so many parents who don't agree, I'm not surprised many 8yo's can't swim.

Despite going swimming with me or DH weekly, and a weekly swimming lesson from the age of 4, my younger DC were 6 before they could swim. blush (But were put into the top group in school NC swimming lessons - so I don't know what that says about the other children) Maybe this girl just isn't a natural swimmer?

Personally I found it easy to go swimming with a baby and older child, but I did have to go to a private health club, as my local authority pool wouldn't let you take more that two under 8's per adult. That would have meant DD wouldn't have been swimming until she was 2!

As someone who fell into the canal when I was 11, I'm very glad I was a strong swimmer at that age, having had two swimming lessons a week and learned to swim in PJ's, ect.

Sparklingbrook Thu 07-Mar-13 19:52:17

But something that could potentially save your life or your child's/anyone's life is way more than just 'useful'.

I never learnt to swim, which is odd because we were always at the swimming pool and mum could swim. But neither me nor my brother learnt. As somewherewest said, it's useful but not essential.

Saying that I have been taking DS to swimming lessons, so do want to learn myself so that if, heaven forbid, he gets into difficulty I can actually be of use instead of watching helplessly.

TomDudgeon Thu 07-Mar-13 20:01:15

I can't get my children to a pool.
The older two now learn at school in the summer and we go as a family when we can but none of them have been able to have other lessons.
I don't like it but there's not much I can do at the moment
So I hope your hoiked high judgey pants slice you in half

Fillyjonk75 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:02:31

I think it's a good idea to learn at some point. But not by a set age. People only think it's essential nowadays because they are lucky enough to go on lots of foreign holidays involving swimming pools and they want to lounge about while their kids splash around unsupervised. My parents always took me swimming and tried to teach me themselves but I never had proper lessons until Y4 at school. Then it took me until Y6 to be able to swim well, and even then we were only taught breaststroke and never diving or crawl.

But it was never an issue as I didn't go abroad until I was 13, with school.

bumblingbovine Thu 07-Mar-13 20:09:08

DS's primary school teaches all the children to swim from year 3 onwards (so 7/8 years old). When Ds went to that school in reception the head teacher said that in the 20 years she had been at the school, every year around 50% of the children in year 3 can't swim when they start the year and 50% can, with varying degrees of proficiency .

The children go swimming every week for the whole of year 3, then for 2 terms in year 4 and one term in year 5. By the time they leave school every child in the school can usually swim at least fifty metres. So not at all unusual it seems to not be able to swim at 8 years old. Perhaps more so at age 11/12 years.

Some children take a long time to learn. DS could swim at 7 years old but Dh had been taking him every week since he was a toddler. We did try lessons but they seemed to make things worse as DS hated them so much. He loves swimming now because he learnt to swim gradually and associated it with fun
time with his dad even when he couldn't swim.

If you have a child who hates lessons and is scared of the water (as Ds was) and parents who can't swim themselves (luckily we can) , how can you get your child to learn ? It needs patience and regular short sessions with someone who can make it fun but still teach. Not always easy to find

GoOnDoOne Thu 07-Mar-13 20:11:03

One of mine loves the water and does lessons etc and the other one hates it. He has enough to deal with as he really hates school at the moment too so I try and keep the weekends as fun and stress free for him as possible. The way things are going, he'll probably be a non swimmer for a while but there are other more pressing things at hand.

The race is not to the swiftest, as my DM always tells me.

Fillyjonk75 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:11:15

I very much doubt many even very good swimmers could save someone's life by diving in after them. Better to know what to do in an emergency, often it is best NOT to jump in after someone, however good a swimmer you are. There are too many stories where the would be rescuer has died while the original person was rescued by a professional.

Sparklingbrook Thu 07-Mar-13 20:11:18

DSs got a term in Year 3 and a Term in year 4 of swimming. Not long enough to teach anyone to swim IMO.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:37

I did post right at the start of the thread. (My personal circumstances are that we live near the sea and I think we'd be daft not to give DD a way of helping herself should she ever get into difficulty, as a quick recap.)

There are a few things that occurred to me reading the thread.

Firstly, I too would like to see the stats on over-confident children getting into trouble. I do also think though that part of teaching your kids how to be safe in water is respect for water. I see it the same way as I do teaching dd to be safe around dogs. She loves dogs, gives ours huge hugs, so part of my job as her parent to keep her safe is teaching her to ask other people before she approaches their dog, and teaching her that not all dogs like to be touched etc. So every time we go swimming I also remind her that she's not to go swimming if there isn't anyone around, for example.
Neither do I see it as acceptable to stop watching her like a hawk because she can swim a few strokes. Adults who are good swimmers drown. Someone mentioned kids getting into trouble while parents sat around reading and trusting they could swim (paraphrasing madly I know, because I can't remember exactly how it was phrased). Well, more fool you as a parent if that's your attitude. Teaching your child to swim is not and should never be a replacement for supervision.

Also, there are people confidently claiming they don't live near any body of water. Well, I do see it as even more important to learn if you live near something obvious like a lake or the sea. But I wouldn't be too complacent about not living near one. As an example, at a zoo we were at fairly recently a four year old climbed a barrier and fell into the penguin pool. Now, the same arguments as above apply - supervision was obviously lacking if the kid had time to do that etc etc. The fact remains though that she was suddenly submersed in water. A member of the public went in for her. Thing is, mostly people in that situation look for a keeper rather than act. If there isn't one about, you don't have much time. Those extra few seconds where your child doesn't panic because they know the feeling of being underwater might give you a few precious extra seconds while someone reacts (looks for a keeper, realises there isn't anyone, looks to see what other people are doing, realises no-one is acting and takes action). If you go to the zoo, look at the number of enclosures surrounded by water. I'll bet most of them are safely fenced, but I'll also bet that most of those barriers are climbed on by kids at some point, not to climb over but to get a better look. One missed step and there's your accident. My point is there are more bodies of water around than you think, in unlikely places. Saying "I don't live near one so it's not a problem" is just as complacent, in my view, as saying "my child can swim therefore I don't need to watch them."

However, I do think some really valid points have been raised. Health issues which might affect things, money is obviously a key one (I'm bloody lucky - grandparents pay for dd's lessons or we'd be struggling to scrape the cash together), access is also clearly going to be critical. I just happen to think that if all these are not relevant, and of course you can never be sure if they are, then yes, you're a bit daft not to teach your kid to swim.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:55

Gosh, that was long.
Sorry folks.

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:46:03

My fb was always an excellent swimmer. However he drowned aged 17 whilst swimming in a manmade lake many years ago sad

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:47:50

Oops silly predictive text! Meant dn!

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:50:06

Nephew that is! :'(

pixi2 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:55:39

I think basic swimming skills are a must. I am a terrible swimmer despite years of private lessons.

Ds is having lessons at 3. He can't start horse riding until 4 or rugby until 6 (these are his choices). So until he is old enough he can learn to swim. Tried dd but she isn't ready yet.

frillynat81 Thu 07-Mar-13 21:03:38

YANBU. My son has been going to swimming lessons every week since he was 4 and he is 7 now. I think it is extremely important.

carrie74 Thu 07-Mar-13 21:30:50

Personally I think it's a life skill to be able to keep safe in the water. I was taught survival swimming techniques a the age of 2, after my parents had suffered the drowning of their son at age 3. The way I was taught (and I'm not convinced it was the best way, but it worked) was to be thrown into the deep end by a teacher to find my SA to the side of the pool.

Both of my children have been swimming since they were newborns, with formal lessons eventually (Thing 2 only in YR, but Thng 1 I started as a toddler). Although they're improving, I'm not convinced they could keep themselves safe, and to me this is a major flaw in lessons in this country. The very first thing children should be taught is how to tread water and get to the side, not how to perfect their front crawl arms IMO.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 22:38:38

Carrie - how very sad for your parents.

I think it must vary a bit depending on where you go though, in terms of what is taught.
Most of the things that dd has learnt in her early lessons have been about safety rather than technique.
So for example she was initially (from a few months old when we started going) taught to get into the water by lying on her tummy on the poolside and wriggling in backwards - the theory being that if she was ever near a pool and tried to get in, she'd probably do the same thing through habit, youd be able to clearly see what she was doing and you had a few seconds to get to her and stop her!
When we progressed to jumping in, one of the things she's been taught is how to turn round and head back for the side. So you jump (or fall) in, you kick your way up, look for the side and head to it. She's also been taught, right from the start, that if she can't climb out then she can 'walk' her way round the pool, using her hands on the side of the pool to shuffle along until she reaches a shallower bit or some steps. No help in the sea clearly but it's something.

Certainly the bit about kicking back to the surface, turning on and holding round has stuck. I mentioned earlier that when she did indeed fall into a pool (I was there, in the water, and reached her quickly) she reacted without any panic, her head appeared above water, she turned, and was grabbing for the side. Result. I don't for one moment delude myself that that means she is totally water safe - she's competent enough for her age but isn't yet quite ready for the Olympics! (she's four). But I am reassured enough that were she to fall in by accident, she is familiar enough with being in water, and has had enough teaching in what to do (our teacher is very explicit about it and says to the children every week "This is what you need to do if you fall into the water" before making them practise it) to be able to hold on for the few extra seconds it might take for someone to get to her.

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