This fall, we have been exploring the “Circle of Water Safety” and focusing on the importance of year-round swim lessons. To reiterate what we learned last month, water safety is a combination of the knowledge and the physical ability that is needed to keep yourself and others safe in and around the water. Taking time to strengthen skills and build comfort through consistent swim lessons are the most important steps for children to become safe swimmers. Last month, we started the water safety discussion by looking at time. This month, let’s take the time element one step further and talk about how spending sufficient time in swim lessons leads to consistency and why this is such important step in progression.
While it does take time for kids to become strong swimmers, the process can take even longer if the lesson are not consistent. For this reason, the timeline for swim lessons should be as uninterrupted as possible as this can be the difference between a child learning to swim in six months or three years. Inconsistency of a child’s swimming progression can drastically affect how quickly they build and maintain their skills.
Let’s take, for example, a 3-year-old child who takes lessons in June and July. During these two months, she becomes comfortable blowing bubbles, kicking, and scooping. Satisfied with this progress, the family decides to take a break from swimming for the time being. Over the winter months, she gets little to no exposure to the water as she did in the summer and, as a result, begins to regress in her ability level. When the next summer comes around and she begins lessons once again, she will not simply pick up from where she left off at the end of the previous summer. Sure, she will get back to that point, comfortably blowing bubbles and kicking, more quickly than she did the first time, but it may take a couple of weeks. After she gets back to that point, there will be less time left in the summer for her to further their skills. By the end of this second summer, she is able to float on her front with minimal assistance, has strengthened her kicks and scoops, and has become much more comfortable in the water, but is not quite ready to swim on her own.
Now let’s take this same child, put her in a different scenario, and see what happens. After making great progress over the summer, she continues to take swim lessons throughout the year. During this time she builds strength in the new skills she learned over the summer and begins to build on those skills. Her comfort with blowing bubbles progresses to the ability to put her whole face in the water safely for 5 seconds. She starts developing her front and back floats and can soon float independently on her front. By the start of the next summer, she is prepared to start learning to make independent forward progress on her front. In her swim lessons she learns the proper motions and strengthens her skills, while in her free play time in the water throughout the summer, she practices what she is learning and continues to build strength and comfort. All of this time she is spending in the water helps accelerate her progression and by the end of the summer she can safely put her face in the water and swim forward on her own.
Given enough time, the child in each of these scenarios would eventually learn to swim on their own. However, you can see that interrupting the process can significantly change how long it can take. Learning to swim is a constant process where each skill builds on the previous and progress comes much more quickly when consistency is prioritized. Keep an eye out for next month’s blog in which we will be discussing in more detail how time and consistency both are essential elements in the process of building the comfort level of a child in the water and how comfort is one of the most important components of a becoming a safe swimmer.