Just Keep Swimming!
The Surprising Benefits of Winter Swim Lessons
The American Red Cross estimates that over 90% of families spend at least some time in the water during the summer months, so it makes sense that summer is the prime season for children’s swim lessons. But don’t be so quick to pull your kids out of the water just because the temperature has fallen outside.
Dale Miller, owner of Into the Swim, Inc., swim school in Deptford/Turnersville and Voorhees, NJ, says, “Parents who start their kids with swim lessons at age 3 and swim year-round have the most success.” He cautions that kids won’t retain what they learn if they take breaks from swimming for several months of the year.
Surprised that now might be the right time to sign your child up for swim lessons? Consider the following ways in which kids can benefit when they keep swimming throughout the winter season.
According to a 2009 study from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, formal swim lessons can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, particularly in children between the ages of 1 and 4. And while summer class will certainly help to build the strong swimming and water-safety skills kids need, year-round lessons allow them to better retain those skills — and move on to mastering more advanced skills faster.
Meg Kevane, owner of Goldfish Swim School in Fort Washington, PA, and Mount Laurel, NJ, agrees that winter lessons allow kids to “prep for next summer, building swim skills, confidence and proficiency to next summer they can just swim!”
Miller adds that he doesn’t consider a swimmer safe in the water until the child becomes coordinated enough to do a proper freestyle. “Then he can get himself out of trouble,” he stresses. The best way to reach that level of proficiency quickly is a weekly lesson all year round.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Parents often struggle to keep kids active, particularly during the winter months when colder temperatures and fewer hours of daylight limit outdoor playtime and lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. Weekly swim lessons provide built-in insurance that children will get exercise on a regular basis.
Swimming works most of the body’s major muscle groups and carries a low risk of injury, which makes it an excellent form of exercise for growing children. Since almost all kids like to swim, they most likely will jump into the pool without protest.
Avoid cabin fever
It’s common for children (and adults) to get bored and restless during the long winter months. Indoor activities like reading and playing video games can only provide so many hours of entertainment before kids feel the urge to run, jump and play, and parents begin to feel like they are going to lose their minds. When it’s too cold to head to the playground, a trip to an indoor pool makes a perfect escape.
At the Brandywine YMCA in Wilmington, DE, Lucinda Kettner, senior aquatic director, and Michael Jumps, swim lesson coordinator, see first-hand that winter swim lessons give kids both a physical and social boost.
During swim lessons, kids get to expend all the excess energy that builds up after too much time spent indoors. They have an opportunity to see their friends, interact with their teachers and move their muscles as much as they need. Once class is over, they should be ready to rest — or at least play quietly — after they get home.
Alyssa Chirco is a freelance journalist and mother of two.