Cognitively and developmentally, a child learns by repetition. The name of the game is consistency, whether we are talking about singing the ABCs, nailing a dance routine, or learning to swim! We’ve all heard it takes 21 days to make (or break) a habit, right? Swim lessons are based on repeated movements and language cues that build upon each other to form the foundation of swimming: kicks, arms, holding the breath, floating. For those who already know how to swim, it’s still about consistency for them as well. Developing new skills, practicing those skills, and working on endurance are part of the ongoing process. Following directions, repeating a pattern, and waiting their turn are also important steps in a swimmer’s development.
Take a minute to think about swimming the freestyle stroke. A swimmer must know when to bring the elbow back, when to breathe, and when to enter the hand into the water – all while kicking the entire time. And that’s just one stroke! Those movements must be repeated over and over again, in order, and in a straight line. If you’ve ever asked an adult who is learning how to swim what is most challenging, it’s usually getting the breathing down; so imagine what cognitive skills it takes for a young child to multi-task like this in the water!
“Swimming, with all its coordination of movement and breathing in the buoyancy of water, facilitates learning in a variety of ways. It stimulates the senses and involves every part of the body. A child in water has entered another environment, and the change of sensation stimulates the entire body, including the brain” says Marc Sabin of B&B Pool and Spa. “At the earliest period of children’s growth, the need for stimulation is more acute than at any other time in their lives. This makes infancy an ideal time to start acquiring the life skill of swimming, and gaining all the other benefits to learning that swimming can provide.”
Now when you consider interrupting the process — breaking that ‘habit’ — you realize why you are going to lose a few steps. And often it is more than a few steps. What I have found over my 25 years of teaching is that young swimmers frequently regress to the point of losing the foundation if there are significant periods of non-swimming throughout the year. This is especially true of the youngest students, aged two to four. Something happens in those early years that makes them more sensible, so fear of water can arise. Add that to the recipe for successful swim lessons and you can easily see that mastering this skill takes a long time!
When children come to Desert Swim School for summer only, it is generally challenging to put them in classes with other children of the same age that have been swimming year-round. Year-round swimmers have never stopped learning and developing; they have not broken the habit! Students that stay enrolled in lessons have consistent instruction and practice with technique, endurance, and safety skills. If you’re spending time and money on swim lessons, it only makes sense to commit to the process and support your child’s growth and improvement by continuing to swim…even if it’s not ‘in season’!
Janice Jaicks has been teaching swim lessons to children since 1985. She founded Waterworks On Wheels, Inc. in 1990 and primarily taught backyard lessons at clients’ homes. Now Desert Swim School, Janice’s program has several year-round indoor locations as well as the summer outdoor lessons. Desert Swim School helps hundreds of kids learn to swim each year. Janice is proud to have only experienced and loving swim instructors who encourage children to love the pool, respect water, and be safer swimmers!