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Learning to swim- how important is it?

(89 Posts)
cherrycat Tue 08-Nov-11 10:02:43

I have been reading posts on another well known parenting site by a woman who was worried she hadn't taken her 8 yr old to swimming lessons or hardly ever went to the pool due to finances (It was interesting to see she was ttc baby no2 on her ticker) and lazyness on her part......so her daughter couldn't swim and she felt slightly guilty about this.
A handful of people had posted saying 'don't worry my kids can't swim either' 'it's not important unless you live on a boat' or 'it's schools job to teach 'em'........I was rather shocked that these parents didn't think swimming was an important life skill!
I've been taking my DD swimming since she was 4 months old (@waterbabies) and now she has regular swimming lessons at local pool. I could never imagine not going on holiday or for days out near water and my daughter not being able to swim.....surely it's a potential lifesaver in a dangerous situation?
What are your thoughts?

ThatsNotMyBabyBelly Tue 08-Nov-11 10:38:30

Personally I don't think they need swimming lessons when very young, but I do think it is important to make them familiar and hopefully comfortable with water. DH takes DD1, aged 2, most weeks.

I agree it is imprtant as they get older, yes it is a potential lifesaver and also a kind of social skill as well.

DrSeuss Tue 08-Nov-11 10:47:24

Drowning- now there's a life skill I'd rather DC didn't master!

To quote my late mother to my five year old self, "Well, you can have dance lessons instead of swimming lessons if you want but if you fall in the river you won't be able to dance out."

We also love the crazily expensive Waterbabies. Many will simply not be able to afford that but there are many alternatives including getting a book from the library and working out how to do it yourself. This woman may indeed be to poor to afford trips to the pool but I do wonder if she couldn't trim something else to get the money.

Is it possible people were just being nice?

Sirzy Tue 08-Nov-11 10:53:30

I don't see the point in paying out for lessons for very young children but do think they should go to the pool to be aware of safety and able to swim when older

Ds is nearly 2, never been to a lesson but has still already mastered floating around the pool without being held (with armbands!) and will carry on just going for fun until he is old enough to want lessons (if he does!)

HopeForTheBest Tue 08-Nov-11 11:03:51

It seems to be one of those things that it has become fairly normal to do earlier ie I know lots of 3yo who are having swimming lessons.

I learnt on holiday, with my parents. Until then, I had armbands on. I was probably around 7 or 8, I think, when I actually learnt to swim by myself.

I intensely dislike swimming pools, so never ever ever go. DH can't stand them either, so "going swimming" is not something that we ever do with ds (4.8). He has been in his GM's pool on occasion, and in the sea with us on holiday. He seemed to enjoy both, but has not once since mentioned going swimming, even though a few of his friends go swimming, and I have asked him it's something he'd like to do.

I think it is def. something you should be able to do, but I'm happy to leave it until he's a bit older.

fufflebum Tue 08-Nov-11 11:07:00

Interesting question cherrycat. Both my DC are learning to swim. One is having classes and the younger one I am taking regularly to get comfortable with the water.

DH can swim but hates it. I myself love the water.

However my mum and her 4 siblings do not swim and never have. In fact their mum (my grandma) actually made them frightened of water.

I personally think it is a useful thing to learn however equally my mum and aunts and uncles have got through life (now in their sixties) and managed ok. Shame they missed out on the joy of water though!

ZZZenAgain Tue 08-Nov-11 11:10:09

for us it is important because of where we live (next to a lake) and because when we go on holiday, we often have a pool and are close to the beach.

If we were never in a position where swimming would be an issue, I am not sure it would be all that important to learn it at a young age.

MyMelody Tue 08-Nov-11 11:14:34

i think they normally go with school in Y3 (so aged 7 or 8?) and i would like them to be able to swim or at least be fairly confident in the water before they go with school, so will probably be looking at swimming lessons when they are in Y2 and take them swimming regularly for a while before that.

swimming lessons for babies/toddlers is fine but not a necessity. i agree it is difficult to find time at the weekends to go regularly with them though along with the million other things that need doing! (and i also dislike swimming pools).

but yes, i think learning to swim is fairly important (although my dad still can't swim now despite living on an island in the Indian Ocean for two years!)

papooshka Tue 08-Nov-11 11:23:08

I think its really important, both my kids have gone to 'lessons' since 6 months old and my now 5 year old is very confident and can swim quite well.

lingle Tue 08-Nov-11 11:32:06

I feel that once your child is developmentally capable of holding their breath when falling into a body of cold water unexpectedly and then doggy-paddling while screaming for help, then it has become a life skill. Once they can do this and also remove their clothes, it's a life skill more likely to be used.

So for my 8 year old it's now a life-skill. For my six-year old it's a hobby. For quite a few six-year olds it would already be a limited life-skill though - ie they could survive an unexpected fall into a pool, but probably not falling off into a cold river with clothes on. Is that a helpful response?

LingDiLong Tue 08-Nov-11 11:34:43

I definitely think it's an important life skill. As for how early children should learn to swim, I think there are 2 important considerations - how often are they likely to be around water without close supervision and how much aptitude they have for it. Personally I don't think there are many very young children (in the UK) that need to learn to swim or are even able to. My 4 and 6 year old have just had lessons, the 6 year old is very very ready and almost swimming by herself after only a few weeks. The 4 year old is nowhere near ready, not even close. I've stopped his lessons but will just take him swimming for fun. The lessons will be a waste of money when he's clearly physically not ready to learn yet. I'm happy with waiting a while as we have no swimming pool in our garden and can't afford holidays so he's never around water unsupervised.

If I lived somewhere hot and had a pool in the garden and a 3 year old with an obvious talent for swimming they'd be having lessons.

DeWe Tue 08-Nov-11 11:38:44

It's not important when they're tiny, and I doubt it makes any difference to how well they swim later in life. But I'd regard it as important to learn over time at primary school. Older than that and it becomes embarrassing for them to learn.

Dd1 started lessons at 3yo, when she could go into the water without me. She was swimming by just over 4yo and I stopped the lessons when she could swim as far as she wanted but the lessons were concentrating on diving and such like, when she was just over 7yo.

Dd2 was born with a physical disability, and has only had school lessons. They're 2x a week during the second half of the summer term in infant school. I rarely took her other than that because of ds who has major ear infections. She learnt to swim during y1 lessons and in the y2 lessons has got to a reasonable standard. She's always been very confident in the water, even when she fell in the pool fully dressed at 2.6yo she was more cross with me for getting her out than scared. confused

sparkle12mar08 Tue 08-Nov-11 11:45:06

It's a critical life skill. But at a cost of over £4 for an adult and nearly £3 for a chil over 4 at my local pool, it's also an extremely expensive one. And if you want proper lessons, they start at about £7 for 30 minutes, and go up to £19 for one-to-one...

mrsbabookaloo Tue 08-Nov-11 11:46:45

DrSeuss - love the quote from your mum!
"Well, you can have dance lessons instead of swimming lessons if you want but if you fall in the river you won't be able to dance out."

I said to my dd that she had to do swimming before she could do ballet, but I wish I'd said it like that!

Was your mum northern? Sounds like a few members of my family...

OriginalPoster Tue 08-Nov-11 11:49:22

I take ours to lessons from age 5 until secondary school age. I've got a lot of ear trouble so never go to a pool where I might get ears wet, but used to take them as babies to a sedate mother and toddler swimming group where they just bobbed around while we chatted. Dd is too old for lessons now, but goes swimming once a week.

We don't do a lot of other activies when they're younger, but they all have taken things up when they are 9/10 ish.

I do think swimming is an important skill. There's no way ours would have learned in the two terms lessons they got through school.

bruffin Tue 08-Nov-11 11:56:55

Even baby lessons are about safety.

One of the reasons people drown is that they panic in water and inhale. Teaching a baby to be comfortable in the water means they don't panic if they fall in and inhale the water.

The baby lessons my dcs to also taught them to automatically turn to the side if they fell in.
DS had lessons from 1 year old and am a very proud mum as he has now passed NPLQ and is a qualified life guard grin
DD had lessons from 6 months and doing her bronze medallion at the moment.

Although DS had lessons for 14years, he still says he misses his swimming and DD doesn't want to pass her BM took quick because she enjoys her lessons too much.

I also have been having advance lessons for the last 9 years because the class means I have to make time to go swimming every week.

omgomgomg Tue 08-Nov-11 11:59:54

Learning to swim can save yours or someone elses life.

Swimming is a healthy hobby, teens can socialise together at a swimming pool.

Once you've learn't to swim you don't forget, no one can take this gift away from you it doesn't break or wear out or lose it's value whilst stuck in a cupboard.

Some people like their kids to have very nice cars or fantastic holidays or expensive clothes/shoes or a mountain of new toys at Christmas or a TV and dvd player in their bedroom and a mobile 'phone or laptop at the age of 7.

My personal opinion is that swimming is more important than consumer goods and I'd rather spend the money on swimming lessons for the dc, a useful gift that keeps its value.

My dc didn't take to it like fish, I have spent many years cheerfuly and willingly giving up my freetime taking them to weekly lessons, but they stuck at it and now happily accept swimming party invitations without worrying that they can't actually swim yet.

I value my children being able to swim, other parents may not and you're so right that there sometimes seems to be the attitude that it's school/government's job to provide lessons.

DrSeuss Tue 08-Nov-11 12:00:12

Mrsbabook, yes, from Chester-le-Street, County Durham.

How strange that you should pick up on that. DH's family, who are Southern but I try not to hold it against them, say that they can tell I'm Northern despite my un-Northern accent because of the things I say! I'm fairly average where I come from and never knew that we were so different!

omgomgomg Tue 08-Nov-11 12:02:15

Oops - the kids only get to ride in the "very nice cars", not drive them !

HuwEdwards Tue 08-Nov-11 12:05:02

Children need a fair amount of body strength to swim competently so when they're very young, few have this, BUT it's really useful so they become comfortable in the water. Baths are just not the same.

For me this was a top priority - not least from a safety aspect, but I love swimming anyway and could just not feel comfortable about my DDs not being able to swim. Both went to lessons at the local baths from the age of about 4 or 5 and were competent in 3 strokes by the time they were 8.

notcitrus Tue 08-Nov-11 12:05:36

I think one vital thing is learning that they can't swim - it looks so easy on telly or when you see other people do it.
I remember thinking it would be a doddle like all school stuff, when I wasn't allowed in a pool until I was 8 (ear issues), and then it really wasn't - which gave me a healthy respect and fear of water which I didn't have before.

Have to admit I'm not sure how much help it is being able to swim 25m in a swimsuit if you unexpectedly fall into cold water with your clothes on!

I love swimming myself so will take ds in due course, but as he's reluctant to go into a paddling pool I haven't tried swimming with him yet (he's 3, sees kids going in the small pool when he goes to the pool creche, but really doesn't want to. If he was a more reckless child I might push it earlier)

HattiFattner Tue 08-Nov-11 12:06:28

I have known a baby of 2 years fall in the pool and drown - he was a family friends baby and he was being watched by a friend while mum went to shop...carer went to answer the phone, baby fell in the water.

Drownproofing my kids was very high on my list of essential childrearing...but then I grew up in a country where lots of people have a pool (South AFrica).

Their statistics show that between 80-100 children aged 1-4 drown every year...and for every child that dies from drowning "five are left brain damaged as a result of prolonged lack of oxygen (only 4 minutes) causes irreversible brain damage."

Id encourage every parent to teach their child basic survival swimming.

DrSeuss Tue 08-Nov-11 12:06:41

What Omgom said.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 08-Nov-11 12:09:20

I think its important they can swim say 50 metres confidently, say by the time they finish junior school. They should also have done one of those water safety courses (DD did hers during the school swimming lessons, hopefully this is the norm?)

There are all sorts of activities which require that sort of level of swimming - even though for such things (kayaking etc) you always wear a buoyancy aid, they still need to be confident enough.

They don't need to be able to swim perfect strokes and certainly don't need to be able to do butterfly! If they want to, great, its good exercise - but not essential.

tobyrat Tue 08-Nov-11 12:09:58

I think it's really important to learn to swim.

Both my 5yo and my 3yo have lessons. My 5yo can swim well and my 3yo can swim a width at least. She started lessons at 3yo and my 5yo only started when he was 5yo and I even feel guilty about starting him so late.

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