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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?

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.

CommanderShepard Thu 07-Mar-13 18:32:15

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'.

MurderOfGoths Thu 07-Mar-13 19:54:54

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.

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