Learn to Swim at the YMCA

swim lessons MAIN textOne of my first memories from childhood is taking swim lessons. Every summer, I enrolled in swim lessons. When I graduated the highest level, I started summer swim team. Then school swim team. Then, as a teen, I worked as a lifeguard. In college, I swam laps during “open swim” at the school pool. So, I am ashamed to admit that, at 5, 3 and 2, my kids haven’t taken swim lessons yet. Granted, as a work-from-home-mom with three young children, I’ve been busy. However, here in Cincinnati, we have access to one of the best swim resources in the country: the YMCA. So last weekend, I decided to take my kids to the YMCA to learn how to swim.

The YMCA is the largest operator of swimming pools in the United States, with more than 2,200 pools. A pioneer in swimming for some 120 years, the Y’s water programs include swim lessons, water exercise and aerobics, competitive swimming and diving and rehabilitation programs.

In Y swim lessons, participants learn and practice new swimming skills and feel a sense of achievement from mastering something new that they can enjoy the rest of their lives. Swimmers become more comfortable and secure around water, all while learning about water safety and improving swim skills.

Whether you belong to your community pool, go on the occasional canoe trip, or simply utilize a baby pool in your backyard, swim safety is something your kids need to know. So, I signed up my kids for a Saturday lesson last weekend at our local Y. Here’s what we learned:

It’s Never Too Late

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I was worried that we’d get the third degree about why my 5-and-a-half year old hadn’t taken any lessons. Not the case. One of the driving philosophies at the Y is that it’s never too late to learn how to swim and to enjoy the water. There are literally lessons for every age and skill level — so you don’t have to worry about your child feeling self conscious about their abilities. Our instructor, Marsha, worked well with each of my kids, and even explained the benefits of starting lessons at 2, 3 and 5.5.

It’s Never Too Early

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The Y offers classes for babies as young as 6 months! In fact, Marsha explained that 6 months is a great time to work on water adjustment and establishing comfort and confidence in the water. These classes are for babies and a caregiver. Even with my almost-two year old, Marsha welcomed my husband assisting in the water. Until age 2(ish), kids are wary around new people. The biggest goal with these baby/toddler classes, Marsha explained, is making kids confident. She was very careful not to push Harvey out of his comfort zone; instead, she instructed my husband on how to assist with the various exercises. It worked — by the end of class, Harvey had really relaxed and warmed up!

Swimming is a Life-Long Skill

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As evidenced by my swimming sequence as a kid/adult, swimming doesn’t stop with lessons. The Y believes that swimming is a life-long skill with many health benefits that helps people stay active, be healthy and have fun. As such, there are a variety of swim lessons, fitness classes, competitive teams, trainings, family events and even open swim hours so that everyone can enjoy the pool. In fact, while there, we saw a young competitive swimmer speeding up and down the lane, as well as older swimmers leisurely practicing aerobics. (My kids got a kick out of watching the young, “superman” swimmer.)

Swimming is Fun!

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Teachers at the Y really strive to make lessons fun for everyone. Marsha improvised nicely with my kids, using digger and Superman analogies with Julian, and alligator songs and silly rhymes with Mary. Even Harvey, who is very suspicious of anyone who isn’t Mommy, warmed up when Marsha let him use a purple swim noodle (he is currently obsessed with purple). I especially appreciated how well she rolled with the punches, catering exercises not only to my kids’ abilities, but also waning energy and attention spans (they got tired near the end, and she gently urged them on, using different toys and props to keep them engaged — much better than I can, I might add!).

Swim Lessons Build Confidence

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One of my biggest takeaways from swim lessons was that they aren’t simply about teaching kids how to swim. YMCA swim programs teach water safety skills, yes, — but they also help participants develop confidence in and out of the water. As Marsha explained, swimming teaches children life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, motivates participants to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. (And you thought lessons were just about kick boards and flippers!)

I saw firsthand the positive effect that just one lesson had on my kids: Julian was so proud of himself — and Mary, my wallflower, was beaming ear-to-ear during the exercises. As we drove home, the kids excitedly talked about their accomplishments, and asked when we would be returning.

If you’re like me, and just find the logistics of getting to regular swim sessions impossible, I strongly recommend signing up for some private sessions. They’re super convenient and surprisingly reasonable, especially when you consider how invaluable a skill swimming is.

For more information on swim lessons at the YMCA, visit the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati website.

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