3 Ways to Prepare your Littlest Swimmer for their First Lesson!

When my son first started lessons (Parent-Tot!), he did SO well. We sang songs, swished around the pool and blew some bubbles. Ahh, it was simple. Fast forward a class or two and things were…not so simple. He cried. And cried. and CRIED. Those first few months of swim lessons were so hard – for my toddler AND for me. He didn’t want to go in the pool, he didn’t want to be separated from me, he didn’t want to put his face in…You name it, it was a problem.

Another mom told me, “Don’t worry, my oldest cried the entire first year of swim lessons and now he loves it!” and I chose to stick with it, despite the tears. The thing is, swim lessons aren’t like soccer practice or piano lessons: swim lessons teach kids life-saving skills. My family loves the pool, and I knew water was definitely going to be part of our lives. He needed to learn to be safer in and around the water, and we specifically chose lessons at SwimWest in order to help him learn those vital skills.

I’ve now had two kids start as toddlers in the SwimWest program, and both my kids are absolute fish these days. We spend nearly every summer day at the pool, and I feel so much safer knowing they have learned from the best!

Here are a few of my tips – from one parent to another – to help you prepare for your toddler’s first swim lesson!

  1. Expect tears. I know, I know, it is SO hard. But if you go in knowing what to expect, maybe it won’t be *quite* so traumatic. They may not like the water temperature (although that’s less of a concern in SwimWest’s warm water), or they may not be used to being away from you very long. Either way, they are safe and in amazing hands. The instructors at SwimWest have great ways of calming kids (fun squeeze toys, songs, sprinkling water on heads, etc) and it might take a session or two (or three or four) to have your child adjust to this new experience. Hang in there, and let the teacher have a chance to bond with your child. PRO TIP: kids cry more when they can see their parents. Try getting out of eye-sight and see if that helps!
  2. Practice at home. Try out their swimsuit and swim diaper in the bathtub, and adjust the temperature to make it slightly cooler than a typical bath. Let them play with toys, sprinkle water on their head, show them how to blow bubbles or put their eyes in the water. These little steps will make the first lesson feel a bit more familiar! PRO TIP: Try a family swim session at SwimWest before the first lesson so you can introduce the pool to your little one before their first lesson. You can get a sense of how they like the water temperature, show them how to put their face in and make it a positive experience.
  3. Prepare your bag. This might not seem that important, but trust me, having your bag ready to go well in advance is a gift you’ll appreciate later. Make sure you have 2 swim diapers (SwimWest requires a layering system to help keep their pool water clean!), swim towels, goggles (if your child is interested in wearing them) and shower supplies if you’re planning to rinse off afterwards. It’s so nice to have a designated swim bag you can toss a towel in and be out the door. PRO TIP: kids especially love bathrobes in the colder months, so it might be nice to bring a robe they can toss around their shoulders after they first leave the pool!

Best of luck with your little swimmer’s first lesson, and feel free to share your own Pro Tips in the comments below!