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Do you know what to look for in a swim instructor or swim school? Because of the safety issues involved, your swim instructor or swim school choice is absolutely critical. Here are my 10 RULES of THUMB:
1. The instructor should be a member of at least one of the following organizations: US Swim School Association, World Aquatic Babies & Children’s Network, American Swim Coaches Association, and/or United States Swimming.
2. The instructor takes a “child-centered” approach vs. a task oriented approach.
3. The instructor is knowledgeable and can help the child improve skills, but more importantly, positively reinforces things the child does well. Positive reinforcement will give the child confidence to improve and make corrections.
4. If your child is under the age of 3, the instructor uses a pool with a minimum water temperature of 87 degrees. If the child is between 3 & 5, the water temperature should be at least 85 degrees, and if the child is between 6 & 12, the water should be at least 83 degrees for swimming instruction. Competitive swimmers (usually age 6 and over) can practice in water as cool as 78 degrees (although 80 – 82 is ideal) because they are working harder, getting their heart rate up, and will actually even sweat in the water from the intensity of the workout.
5. The instructor SHOULD use Lesson Plans.
6. The instructor should promise a particular teacher; student ratio. Here are some excellent guidelines: 6 – 36 months: Parent & Me format, up to 6:1 ratio is okay since parent is in the water. 3 – 4 year olds: No more than a 4:1 ratio IF a buoyancy device is being used. Without a buoyancy device, no more than a 2:1 ratio. 5 – 6 year olds: Up to 6:1 ratio if a buoyancy device is being used. No more than 4:1 ration if no buoyancy device. 7 – 12 year olds: Up to 8:1 ratio if the children can stand and/or have a buoyancy device.
7. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO WATCH EVERY SECOND OF EVERY CLASS! If the instructor says you can’t watch, you need to find another program. I would NEVER leave my child alone with anyone. PLUS–you are an extra set of eyes making sure your child is safe in the water. Constant Supervision is one critical aspect of drowning prevention.
8. In general, you would want a teacher who is at least 18 years of age (there are exceptions).
9. If the instructor has a “no refunds” policy, you better do some extensive observation of the instructor before hiring him/her. Find out what they will do if you miss class due to illness. If a make-up isn’t offered, a credit for a future class is a good option.
10. Make sure the water is tested regularly for appropriate chlorine and PH levels. No chlorine is your biggest concern, and low PH will actually cause the eyes to get sore. Tip: You can buy a test kit at Walmart and test the water yourself. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
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