The Benefits of Swimming Lessons
By Erin Anderson
As a pediatric occupational therapist for fifteen years, I have always recommended swimming to my clients. Regular swimming works wonders for many skills that occupational therapists focus on, including gaining muscle strength and development. Being in the water helps kids learn where their body is in space and it is very calming to feel the water around them. Swimming also helps with motor and bi-lateral coordination because kids learn to use both the right and left sides of their bodies AND the top and bottom parts of their bodies together to move. Using your body as a whole to move through space helps anyone to gain a better sense of self while experiencing a calming sensation.
When I had my own daughter, I knew we should sign her up for swimming. I understood how important this activity is for motor development plus I also had a personal awareness of safety for my daughter. My husband and I have always enjoyed beach vacations so with the addition of my two year-old daughter, we did not want this to end but I was acutely aware of the anxiety I felt when we were around water. I knew that teaching her how to swim needed to become a priority. We wanted her to be safe and comfortable around water. I found Goldfish Swim School online and I had heard about their swim lessons around town so I decided to sign her up.
My daughter has always loved paddling in the pool with us on trips and going in lakes and oceans so I anticipated this to be an easy transition. I signed her up for a class on her own, with two other kids and a teacher. She was excited to go but when we got there she proceeded to get in the water and cry for the entire half hour! As a mom, I couldn’t believe she disliked it this much. It was hard to watch her screaming and looking at me with that look of despair! As a therapist I knew she was safe, that this was new and being around water most likely made her feel vulnerable. The staff was wonderful. They saw my panicked look through the glass and gave me a reassuring smile. At one point my daughter had the teacher in the water with her and her own lifeguard sitting by her side trying to distract her with a toy.
When the session was over, they all cheered for her and celebrated her first swim lesson. The next two weeks continued with her crying and the Goldfish team suggested that we try doing a parent class and swim with her to get her comfortable. She loved this and we did it for seven months. Then we moved her to the next level on her own and she has moved up two levels since. It has been a great success!
Now as a 3 year old, my daughter swims on her own during her lessons at Goldfish. She can also can do a back float all with a smile on her face! We continue to work on her confidence when practicing at our local pool and her skills are coming along. Because Goldfish Swim School often incorporates play into their lessons through toys and over-the-top reactions (my daughter loves giving a high five and knocking over the instructor), the children in lessons truly have fun. This play-based type of teaching helps children feel comfortable in a vulnerable setting while working towards learning new water safety skills!
Overall the school is flexible with our busy schedules as working parents. When we need to reschedule, there are always available make up classes. Family swim gives us a chance to practice with her. Goldfish has allowed us to continue to take sun-filled family vacations in addition to working on her motor development and building her self-esteem as she continues to conquer new goals all while having fun at the same time.
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