Questions Helpful in Selecting a
• Teachers of infants and toddlers should be trained by a child centered instructor. All teachers should be certified in infant-child CPR and first aid. Teachers must be in tune with children in thought and action. Being a champion swimmer or coach, a doctor or even a well known teacher (who has done it his/her way for years) does NOT guarantee that they are aware of or sensitive to the feelings, needs or point of view of baby swim students. Do they deal well with and have good rapport with the children and their parents?
• Are the teachers enthusiastic, patient and focused on the class and the children? Do they know when and how to introduce skills sequentially in the curriculum or do they teach everything all at once? Does the teacher address the fears of the child (if they exist) or do they create them? Seek out a mentor not a tormentor.
• Are the swimming skills taught age and developmentally appropriate. Are the skills introduced gradually and when the children are ready? Is the program “baby friendly”? Or are imposing teaching techniques being implemented at the expense of the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well being of the child? Are children being submerged before they are relaxed and adjusted to the water? Are they being forced against their will on to their backs? Is positive reinforcement being used? Are the teachers words consistent with their actions? Infants and toddlers do require a high level of trust.
• Are the children enjoying class or are they crying or trying to escape? Are they swallowing water? Are children throwing up from fear or from swallowing excessive amounts of water. Are the children thriving or surrendering? Are babies crying in the parking lot before or after class? Ask parents if their children cry or become excited when they mention the swimming teachers name or swim lessons?
• Swimming programs for young children should look similar to other programs for that age group (pre-schools, mommy and me groups etc.) colorful, safe, friendly and fun, not hostile. If you don’t see that ask yourself why?
Will the lesson experience strengthen the bond and trust between you and your child? It should.
• Be wary of the use of intimidation to persuade you that it is your baby’s responsibility to safeguard itself against drowning. Fear can easily cloud a parents better judgment, potentially derailing the higher course of action. One classic comment preying upon the fears of unknowing parents is “that is better that your child cry now, than you cry later,” implying that their child could possibly drown if they do not sign up for lessons with that individual. Most child centered, “baby friendly” programs can also site incidences were a child’s life was saved as a result of swimming ability. This is of course a testament to patience and long term perseverance in the learning process. However, some swim programs or teachers tout unusually high numbers of infant’s lives “saved” as a result as their swimming techniques. This can indicate a lack of education to parents and care givers in regard to the comprehensive approach to pool and water safety. These elements include supervision, constant eye contact around water, barriers between the house and the pool (and other bodies of water), pool safety fencing, CPR, and child centered swim lessons. Our responsibility as adults is to keep children out of the pool or other bodies of water unsupervised in the first place (refer to there home pool safety page). Fear and intimidation are often amplified in the name of safety to justify the use of force to prematurely and repeatedly submerge or back float an unwilling child. Crying is not a prerequisite to learning how to swim. This should be a happy experience.
• Many programs only show you the end result. Ask questions over the phone. View the process, if possible go observe unannounced. Stay and watch as many lessons as possible. Do not feel obligated to enroll in a program that does not feel right to you. If you make a selection and then discover later that it is not in tune with your child, do not hesitate to switch to a more suitable program.
• Interview parents with whom you know share a nurturing and whole child, parenting philosophy. Listen to your intuition. What is your gut feeling telling you? Is this a program you would have enjoyed as a child?
This unique and enriching experience should be one that your child will reflect upon with fond memories.