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Learn to Swim FAQs

Is my child too young to start swimming?


The best time to start formal learn-to-swim lessons is at 3 months of age. By 3 months, parents are relaxed handling baby, the baby has good neck control and baby is interested in new and exciting situations.

Informal swimming lessons can start from birth. During bath time, parents can introduce baby to the conditioning process that we use to teach the baby breath control on command. If you haven’t started early with your child don’t worry. Regular exposure to the water is the key in teaching children to swim.

How long does it take for a child to learn how to swim?


Every child is different and therefore it is impossible to give an exact answer to this question. However practice and exposure are the keys to learning, therefore if you want your child to learn fast you need to take them to the pool regularly. This means two or more times per week. Holiday courses are a great opportunity for fast progression because the children get to practice every day. As a general rule, by the age of 4 they have developed the motor control and muscle strength to swim alone in a pool.


How often should my child swim?


We recommend parents take their child to the pool at least twice per week- once for a lesson and once for a play opportunity. Parents should combine formal learn-to-swim lessons with exploratory play opportunities in different aquatic environments. The more exposure children have to the water, the sooner they learn their capabilities and boundaries in the water. Parents should also utilise the daily bath routine to consolidate basic swimming skills like water familiarisation, breath control and floating.


What can I do to make my child a better swimmer?

  1. Give them opportunities to practise. The more they practice the better they will become, so take your children to swimming lessons regularly and to the pool.

  2. Become part of the teaching process. The best way that your child will progress is with the guidance and tuition of their parents. We encourage you to ask the Red Whale teachers lots of questions and become engaged in the process.


My child is scared of the water. What should I do?


The most common reasons for children to become scared are

  • Lack of control in deep water and

  • Scared of putting their head under.


A) Control: For a child to be in control in the water they need shallow water. They need to be able to either sit on a platform or stand up on the bottom of the pool by themselves. When they are doing this they are in control. If you are holding your child in deep water they are not in control - you are. Therefore playing in a pool that is shallow or on a ledge is essential for the frightened beginner.

Once they have built up their confidence in the shallow you can gradually introduce them to the deeper water. This can be done through reassuring your child that you are there with them and through setting small tasks for your child to accomplish. Slowly but surely your child will build confidence.

B) if your child is scared to put their head under water, or doesn’t like the feeling of water on their face, don’t force them. This will just scare or traumatise them. We use a process of conditioning whereby the child gradually becomes ready for submersion. The younger this process starts, the better.


Remember - if your child is frightened, go very slowly - all it takes is patience and time with frightened children.


What can I do to stop my child crying when they are at the pool?


Firstly - if your baby cries, avoid getting out of the water. Try to comfort the baby while still in the pool. If you get out of the pool every time, they baby cries then they are going to associate being upset with getting out of the pool.

Try to determine what is making the child upset. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they cold? Did they swallow some water? Once you know what the problem is then it is a lot easier to fix it. For instance you may simply need to feed them at a suitable time before they have their lesson.

Another way to stop a baby crying is through distraction. Toys are excellent stimulants and great distractions for babies. Noise is also great for distraction e.g. tapping a cup on the side of the pool. Importantly talking, soothing and reassuring your baby is vital for them to feel comfortable and at ease.

Is there an upper age limit for lessons?


NO. When a child can do 50m of controlled freestyle and breaststroke  with good, consistent technique, they are ready to progress to squad swimming.

Should a child use armbands?
NO. Armbands and other flotation devices provide a false sense of buoyancy. They also restrict the child from getting into a horizontal body position with their head in the water. Armbands also give a false sense of security to parents (what if they burst - the only 100% safety mechanism is constant parental supervision). If children accidentally fall in the water without their armbands, they could panic and drown. They can create a psychological barrier for children to learn to swim in deep water without them.  Although swimming without armbands take a lot of commitment from parents in the beginning, it pays off in the long term.