Three years of swimming lessons and still no clue. Advice?

(53 Posts)
OhBuggerandArse Sun 18-Aug-13 13:56:34

Oh dear. Have just had miserable trip (meant to be fun family outing) to the swimming pool where my six year old appeared completely unable to swim at all, or even remember the absolute basics about kicking or body position.

Am very frustrated with myself that I couldn't stay patient and helpful, but also unbelievably pissed off that we've been shelling out for lessons (group ones run by the local pool) for so long to so little effect. We do swim regularly as a family as well, but have usually just tried to have fun and get the kids comfortable in the water - perhaps this was the wrong way to go about things?

The new term of lessons starts next week and he is booked in - am I kidding myself that things might improve, or do I need to go looking for some other solution? I've never considered smaller group/individual lessons because of the expense, but there doesn't seem to be any point in keeping on paying for teaching that isn't working for him.

The other issue, of course, is how to get him to try harder and more consistently - school stuff comes pretty easy to him, so he doesn't really have enough experience of having to keep plugging away at things that don't come naturally at first. Clearly today's tactic of losing my temper is not a good one - but I don't think it does him any good to keep pretending that everything can just be fun either.

Would be very grateful for any technical/practical tips about the swimming lessons, as well as psychological ones re. tactics for dealing with a coasting child!

sockmatcher Sun 25-Jan-15 18:39:57


Madcats Sun 25-Jan-15 18:35:04

I think some kids just love water.

We did baby swimming with DD from about 3-12 months (lots of singing and splashing and getting the kids used to a dunking). We still took her to the local pool a couple of times a month (holding her, no arm bands etc). I think this early start really helped with her breathing when diving/turning etc.

We started swim lessons at 4 (she could float and thrash about) because thought it would be helpful for her to get used to "teachers" before starting school. I think she was typically in a class of 4-6 and she was confidently swimming widths before 5 (the teachers tended to take kids out of their depth on woggles/in swim fins to avoid them getting into the habit of putting their feet down). DD probably progressed because she was doing ballet and gym etc so has very good core strength.

We have probably given her about 15+ 30 minute 1 to 1 lessons with some excellent swim teachers over the past 2 years. They were excellent at really focussing on technique and correcting bad habits (and we would have continues with this is we weren't the other side of the country now).

Aged 71/2 our daughter is a super-confident water-baby. With us, though, she'd much rather splash about/swim underwater and do a bit of diving!

catkind Sun 18-Jan-15 17:11:27

<shrug> worked for us. DS' swim school use them too, they seem to be very successful.

snoopy1242 Sun 18-Jan-15 14:24:23

Only problem is Catkind, they get too reliant on jackets, noodles armbands. mine just got taught with there arms and legs... swimming is good fun, and when my 5 year old said i want arm bands (She could swim at 5 - proper front crawl with arms over and breathing) we said you don't need them ( her friends all had arm bands on) she tried to do 3 strokes then threw the armbands off and said i am glad i can swim. Why can't everyone swim!!! Ha ha.

catkind Sun 18-Jan-15 14:10:43

I don't think I'd sign up to this theory that lessons before 5 are a waste of time. Every family we know who's done baby lessons and stuck with it has had kids swimming well before 5. (We didn't stick with it, the pool was too hot and DS not happy.)

I think given the total fail on lessons I might try taking some time out. It may be it's just about him deciding he's going to do it. Whether that takes bribery or just a change in attitude, I bet it'll make the world of difference.

That's how it worked for my DS. He loved water and had fun splashing around but no sign of swimming ability. He said all along that he'd learn to swim when he was 5. He turns 5, we sign him up for lessons - and he was swimming doggy paddle in the second lesson behind the teacher's back. Now I don't believe they did anything magic with him in one (council) lesson. The only thing that changed was him believing he could.

I would get some kind of float jacket or a pool noodle round him when you're swimming as a family so he can get used to the feeling of swimming without his feet on the ground and learn to kick himself around.

snoopy1242 Sun 18-Jan-15 13:42:15

As long as you are happy with the lessons WinterBranches!

WinterBranches Sun 18-Jan-15 13:33:08

Mine both learned at 6. One had been to "swimming" lessons from age 2, the other started at 5.5!

snoopy1242 Sun 18-Jan-15 13:19:34

Leisure Centre class swimming or school swimming is usually rubbish, as justalittlelemondrizzle says, there are usually far too many kids in the pool in a lesson so the kids are not learning anything. My husband has some 3/4 year olds doing widths, so it is worth persevering with lessons. kids learn at different rates anyway. If you find a good teacher - stick with it!

justalittlelemondrizzle Sat 17-Jan-15 21:23:33

And as a few others have said if I did it again I wouldnt start lessons till after they were 5.

justalittlelemondrizzle Sat 17-Jan-15 21:19:38

My DD's 7 and almost 6, started lessons 2 and a half years ago and are now upto stage 2. The first 18 months of lessons at the local council run pool were a waste of time & money. If anything they were less confident by the time I finally decided to find somewhere else for them. there must have been 20 kids in the class with 1 teacher who couldnt care less.
They have been doing private lessons for the last year and have moved up 2 stages in that time my eldest almost stage 3. Although I still think this is slow progress due to the crap teaching they recieved at the council lessons it really set them back. Makes me angry we carried on as long as we did.

snoopy1242 Sun 11-Jan-15 14:01:35

Swimming for babies (6weeks) and older is very much worth it. My 2 daughters both swam from very young and now are both very accomplished swimmers they are now (21) & (17) and the 21 year old got to county level. We had 6 months of hell with her (when she was 2) but persevering really paid off! Thank god her dad was a swim teacher smile

GangstersLoveToDance Sun 29-Sep-13 18:20:56

Must say that I do think swimming lessons are a waste for under 5's.

My two have recently completed their first 10 week course in swimming (group sessions) - ds1 is 5 and ds2 is 3.

Ds1 was a complete non-swimmer, and after 10 x 30 minute lessons is now able to swim a whole width on his front or back with no floats. It's amazing how quickly he came on.

Ds2 on the other hand spends his time being pulled around on various different floats and blowing bubbles in the water and playing. I can do that when I take them swimming and don't have to pay the equivalent of £9 per hour for the privilege.

IMO, ds2 is not learning anything but unfortunately now i'm stuck - because there's no way i'd stop ds1, but there will be holy hell if I withdrew only ds2.

So i'm stuck paying for swimming lessons for him, probably for a year or two, before he gets any benefit. Had I just started ds1 and told ds2 he could also start when he was 4 or 5 there would never have been an issue!

Anyway, my advice would be not to bother with lessons until at least 4.

lainiekazan Mon 09-Sep-13 13:10:40

Ds was useless at swimming. I dutifully took him to leisure centre classes for a year and he was still sloping along with one foot on the bottom.

After years of saying he didn't care if he couldn't swim, at age 13 he suddenly said he wanted to be able to swim. I bit the bullet and paid for one-to-one lessons with a very well thought of teacher at a hotel pool. I had to wait a long time for a place to come up - over a year, in fact, but it was so worth it. She had ds swimming in no time and although he will never be Michael Phelps he can enjoy swimming on holiday and actually has a good technique (so I'm told - I can't swim myself blush ).

BushCricket Sat 07-Sep-13 07:53:33

I am a keen swimmer and looked up best age for lessons for my kids. ASA seemd to recommend 4 or 5 as the very earliest for formal swimming lessons to actually learn proper strokes. Before that it is for ease and confidence in the water and no need to pay for that if you can take them IMO.
I think it takes a long time with weekly lessons to learn the techniques and body positions needed. I think children who learn to actually swim unaided in a few weeks or months may have poor technique and will then have to spend a long time unlearning what they have been doing.
I think the new methods of learning are better than what we had as children - you only have to go to a pool in the UK to see that a lot people's techniques are not great. However it does take longer as you are putting all the foundations in place first. My two took over a year each to learn to swim unaided and they were water confident and having 2-1 lessons with a fab instructor. They are now faster than me and doing club swimming.

Needmoresleep Sat 07-Sep-13 07:37:29

A while ago but my son took about three years to learn to swim whereas his younger sister was a fish and effectively overtook him. I finally worked it out. He was a really skinny boy with no buoyancy. He essentially did not float in the same way that the chubbier kids did. He therefore needed to work hard to stay above the water and it was not really till he was about 8 that he had sufficient strength.

By then he was not prepared to be outshone by his younger sister so gave up once he finished the various levels.

Leisure Centre swim lessons can be quite poor. I understand you can qualify as a teacher without being able to swim yourself and so it is not uncommon for football and other coaches to train to help ensure early evening demand can be met. Really worth checking that the teacher is someone who swims and enjoys swimming.

cory Fri 06-Sep-13 15:15:34

My family are 5 minutes from a very safe and inviting beach. Even so 6 is the average age for learning to swim and has been so for generations. It's what ReallyTired said about physical development.

Parmarella Sun 01-Sep-13 13:46:01

It GOT HIM to the next level, sorry

Parmarella Sun 01-Sep-13 13:45:27

At that age, and after3 years, I shelled put for 12 private lessons for DS , so he had his normal group lesson + 121 with a teacher.

It hot hom to the next level ( the deep end!)

I figured a costly term was better than another 3 years of never ednding group lessons, and after a year I even let him quitt ( he was just 7)


We took ours for lessons at the public pool from age 4 as at the time the ILs had a holiday home on the edge of a lacke.

They are both competent swimmers now aged 7 and8.

I find that they swim really well at their lessons but when I take them, they just splash and play but are very competent and confident in the water. Its just that there's no way I can get them to swim anything resembling a length or proper stroke, when its just US with no teacher.

Also, if the lessons are in a shallow pool, like one of the private (expensive) places near us, then when the kids go to the public pool them can't put their feet on the bottom and act like they can't swim.

Its far cheaper for me to send the kids for lessons than pay for all of us to go to a public swim session, so they keep going for their lessons and I take them on a weekend once a fortnight or so.

coco27 Sun 01-Sep-13 13:17:47

I think swimming lessons are not really useful until the child can doggy paddle a few metres.Achieving this is more a matter of confidence than technique.You are much better to teach him yourself.The secret is to support them in a good swimming position and very gradually reduce the support.Never ever put them in s ituation where they are frightenedI am not a swimming teacher but taught all my 4 myself before they were 5 by one swimming session a week.

LIZS Wed 21-Aug-13 09:56:03

I think also there is a danger of putting them into a situation where they know they can put their feet down in the shallow end at the first sign of fear. That in turn means they never really get going and resist going further. Taking them a little deeper, such as to where they can stand up on tiptoe, may allow them to feel the natural resistance and buoyancy of the water better and actually give them a little more confidence to have a go and develop techniques to keep afloat. Some swimming schools don't use buoyancy aids and teach under water swimming. dd became much more confident after a holiday where the pool was beyond her depth, using a woggle and floats.

Meglet Wed 21-Aug-13 09:15:42

6yo DS has been having lessons for 3yrs now and he's still in the baby pool. He is very water confident though, there's just too much messing around and not concentrating during lessons.

Last week I stumped up for private lessons for him and almost 5yo DD and the difference was amazing. It is not cheap at all but I'm a LP so can't teach them by myself. I'm going to take the hit on more private lessons (and keep up with their normal lessons) as I think they'll crack it really fast now. Once they can swim I can get them in the big pool with me.

LifeofPo Wed 21-Aug-13 09:10:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ReallyTired Wed 21-Aug-13 09:05:09

Many children to learn to swim with group lessons.

"I personally prefer to just go all in and get done with the lessons in a shorter time than languishing with lessons for years and years with little progress."

The only way to avoid languishing with lessons for years is to start at six or seven years old. Even then a child needs practice to get good at anything.

My daughter has had three terms of swimming lessons and can float on both her front and back. She can swim on her back, and she can swim with her head in the water on her front. However she does not have the physical stamina to get her head out of the water or swim an entire length. She is four years and three months.

Often a child is not developmentally ready. Even if a three year old has one to one lessons they will not learn because their physical development is just not there.

Some children find swimming harder than others just like some children find maths harder.

Munashe Wed 21-Aug-13 02:41:32

By the way I think whichever option you choose if you want him to progress faster then you have to get some extra swimming with him in addition to the weekly lessons. Even is you can manage once that would greatly help. It will be just fun swimming even with little sharks for him to dive and pick up, his water confidence will greatly improve.

I personally prefer to just go all in and get done with the lessons in a shorter time than languishing with lessons for years and years with little progress.

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