Frequently Asked Questions

Adapted from American Red Cross - Choosing a Swim Instruction Program

No one is too old to learn how to swim. And, if you are a parent, enrolling your child in swim lessons will help your child develop this important life skill. Although formal swimming lessons will not “drown-proof” your child, they can significantly reduce the likelihood of your child drowning.

Whether looking for a swim instruction program for yourself or your child, it is wise to do some research to find a program that will best fit your needs. For example, think about whether you would prefer private, semi-private or group lessons. Research the options that are available in your area. Neighbors and health care providers (such as your child’s pediatrician) are often knowledgeable about local options for learning how to swim and may be able to offer recmmendations.

Arrange to speak with the swim program coordinators at the facilities you are considering. In addition, ask if you may tour the facility, observe a class in progress or both. Gather information about the following:

  • Program qualities. The program should have clearly defined objectives, schedules and pricing, and it should seek to accommodate people of all ages and varying abilities. A good swimming instruction program is structured around progressive levels and incorporates basic safety and survival skills, swimming skills and water safety concepts in to every lesson.
  • Instructor credentials. Ask how instructors are trained and what certifications they hold. Instructors should be trained by a nationally recognized training agency, such as Water Safety instructors trained by the American Red Cross.
  • Class assignments. Find out the criteria used to determine class placement. The program coordinator should be able to tell you what the goals are for each level in a swim instruction program, and what the requirements are to successfully complete that level and advance to the next one. Participants should be grouped with participants of similar ages and abilities.
  • Class size. The instructor-to-participant ratio should be small enough to allow the instructor to provide each participant with individualized instruction and attention outside of activities that are done as a group. How much time does each participant have to wait for a turn with the instructor? When the instructor is assisting one participant, are the other participants safely practicing the skills they have just learned? “Downtime” should be minimal, even in group classes.
  • Class structure. Classes should include a variety of teaching methods and activities to keep participants engaged and enhance learning. Time devoted to instruction and practice should be appropriate, with more time given to practice. Time should also be spent reviewing and practicing previously learned skills, as well as learning new ones.
  • Instructor qualities. Instructors should be professional, encouraging, positive and involved. Instructors should be in the water when they are teaching, unless it is appropriate for them to be on the deck (for example, when demonstrating a skill on dry land before having participants try it in the water). Before and after class, the instructor should be accessible to answer questions. If you are the parent of a child enrolled in the swim class, the instructor should provide you with regular updates about your child’s progress.
  • Attention to safety. Are certified lifeguards on surveillance duty during the swim lesson? Is the instructor-to-participant ratio small enough to allow the instructor to keep an eye on all of the participants at once? (Even with a lifeguard on duty, the instructor must also be able to adequately supervise and keep track of every participant in the class.) Is the facility clean and well maintained?

No, there is no such thing as drown proofing a human being! It is the responsibility of the caregiver to provide responsible and constant watch over children in, on, and around the water.

Of course it is, but choose your program wisely. Swimming for Life suggests the following:

  1. Research before you go! Do your homework. Don’t rely on an experience that someone else has had to make your final decision. Children learn differently. Good instructors will make adjustments in their teachings.
  2. Talk with the instructor. Make sure she/he is a good fit for you and your child. Ask to observe swim lessons and ask to observe multiple times. Ask questions. No question that you may have about your child is a dumb question!
  3. If at any time you feel that your child is uncomfortable or upset or if the lessons upset you, rethink your decision. Your child must be comfortable in the environment before he/she can learn skills. Do NOT be talked in to staying with the lessons if you feel in your gut something is wrong. Go with your gut feelings when it comes to your child. Take action! You can leave the program!
  4. The American Academy of Pediatrics has released the following statement:
    • "In the new policy, the AAP reinforces its existing recommendation that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but the AAP is now more open toward swim lesson classes for younger children. In the past, the AAP advised against swimming lessons for children ages 1 to 3 because there was little evidence that lessons prevented drowning or resulted in better swim skills, and there was a concern parents would become less vigilant about supervising a child who had learned some swimming skills.
    • But new evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. The studies are small, and they don't define what type of lessons work best, so the AAP is not recommending mandatory swim lessons for all children ages 1 to 4 at this time. Instead, the new guidance recommends that parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child's frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health concerns related to pool water infections and pool chemicals.
  5. The American Red Cross Swim offers the Parent and Child Aquatics Program to help young children between the ages of 6 months and approximately 3 years become comfortable in and around the water so that when the times comes, they are ready to learn how to swim. In addition, parents learn about water safety and how to safely handle their children in and around the water. This is the age where the parent should be in the water working together to provide the foundation for future aquatic skills. This course is NOT designed to teach children to become good swimmers or even to survive in the water on their own.

Adapted from American Red Cross - Elements of a Good Swim Instruction Program

  • The program has clearly defined objectives, expectations, schedules and pricing and seeks to accommodate people of all ages and varying abilities.
  • The program strives to make accommodations and modifications as needed to allow people with disabilities or health conditions to participate in the program.
  • Instructors are well trained by a nationally recognized training agency, such as Water Safety instructors trained by the American Red Cross.
  • Instructors and other staff members are accessible, knowledgeable, professional and engaged. Instructors are in the water when teaching unless it is appropriate to be on the deck. When the participants are children, the instructor communicates regularly with the parents and provides progress reports and other relevant information.
  • Attention is given to safety. The facility is clean and well maintained, and certified lifeguards are on surveillance duty during all swim lessons.
  • The instructor-to-participant ratio allows for individualized attention and supervision of all participants.
  • Participants are active and engaged throughout each lesson.
  • Participants make progress over time.