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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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Nephew that is! :'(

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

Oops silly predictive text! Meant dn!

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

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

Gosh, that was long.
Sorry folks.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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'.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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