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Choosing a swim instruction program for your child

Photo by Indiana University Division of Recreational Sports.

Sometimes the best intentions can lead to shortcomings in a swim instruction program, said Annie Eakin, assistant director of aquatics in IU Bloomington's Division of Recreational Sports. Problems like overcrowding, long classes and too much interference from parents can detract from a positive pool experience. Eakin offered suggestions on finding a safe and fun swim instruction program for your child.

  • A popular program may have a lot of students, but class size should be kept in check. "You should never have more than 10 swimmers per instructor," Eakin said. "I prefer to limit classes to six children."
  • Less is also more when it comes to the length of the lesson. Children's classes should be 30 to 45 minutes long, Eakin said. An hour may be too long to hold a child's attention.
  • Parents should have a place to watch the lesson that is not too close to the deck. "If a parent is within arm's reach they become a distraction to the child," Eakin said. Although having parents in sight can help a child feel comfortable, too much interaction disrupts the class.
  • Visit the facility during lessons and observe the instructors. "Do they set rules at the beginning of class? Do they give equal attention to each child? Does the instructor turn her back on the class or does she back away so she can still see everyone? All these questions are important when choosing a swim program," Eakin said.

Parents should ask if a lifeguard will be present during lessons. If an emergency occurs, the lifeguard can respond to the situation while the instructor keeps watch over the class.

Be sure that swim instructors are certified through a reputable organization such as the American Red Cross or the YMCA.