I am usually a fan of BabyCenter as a great resource for parents on everything from baby feeding schedules to what to look for in a pre-school, but they definitely got this one wrong… “It’s best to hold off on formal swim lessons until your child is at least 3 years old.” Their justification for saying this is that children under 3 lack the attention skills for them to learn from the instructor. They say, “Most 2-year-olds aren’t able to listen to the instructor for any length of time or to follow instructions.” WOW! With a statement like that, one would be led to believe that 2 year olds aren’t capable of learning any new skills, which we know is not true. What an outdated and uneducated view on teaching children who are in the early stages of language development. This was obviously written by someone who does not understand the development of young children or who has any idea of the principals of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and how they are used to teach ALL types of children of ALL ages.
YES, children under 3 have a very short attention span and most do not respond well to verbal instructions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn. In fact, this age group learns at an extremely rapid rate, you just need to know how to teach them. At Infant Aquatics, our swim classes for this age groups are only 10 minutes in length, 4 days a week, for 6 weeks. Because their attention span is so limited, short repetitive lessons are the key to success with them. During the lessons, an instructor fluent in the methods of ABA and Infant Aquatics can begin building a chain of skills that they add to each lesson. The instructor is not giving lengthy explanations of proper swimming techniques in the water, because this is not how children under 3 learn. They learn by doing and practicing, which is how an educated instructor will teach your child. Talking with the child is actually not even required, although it can be helpful for young children who learn more auditoraly. This chain of skills is how the child will learn the appropriate behavior in the water to achieve their ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to BREATHE, which is a darn good reinforcer for children to work towards.
These are the same principals I have applied during my years of teaching student’s with Autism and other disabilities. Because language is not a strength for many of them, I often use a sensorimotor approach combined with methods of ABA when teaching a new skill. This is exactly what we do in the water. This is nothing new. These are research based methods that educators and informed swim instructors have been using for years. Having said this, it doesn’t take away from the complete amazement when you actually see a 1 year old Swim-Float-Swim across a pool. I know this because I experienced this exact amazement when my daughter accomplished this over the summer at just 14 months old. I know the methods. I know they work. But MAN, was I in awe of what she learned to do in just weeks!
So, moral of the story is… Don’t be fooled by the uninformed people out there that say your child can’t swim due to their age or disability. They do not understand the development of children or the methods of Applied Behavior Analysis. We at North Georgia Adapted Aquatics and SwimKids know that your child can do it!!
Link to the BabyCenter article: