Later on that night, I revisited his question in detail. He asked if kids swimming lessons are better than letting a kid figure out how to swim on his own - but he also asked if kids swimming lessons are faster. Did I give him the correct answer? Is letting your child teach himself how to swim better than kids swimming lessons? As a swim instructor, I can safely say that it is not better to let your kid "figure it out," although he or she could.
Humans are remarkable beings. We can learn simply by watching other people perform acts over and over. In fact, much of what we learn when we are toddlers is through observation of repetition:
- A child placed in the water could observe another swimmer and eventually "teach" himself how to swim.
- He would learn how to keep himself at the surface of the water, how to propel himself forward, and how to float on his stomach or back.
- Even if he did teach himself how to successfully swim around in the pool though, he has not gained the knowledge of how to do the strokes and kicks effectively and efficiently.
- How much time did it take him to progress through all those skills?
- Time depends on the person, even in a swim class, but proper form and function can only be taught by a qualified swim instructor (which could include advanced swimmers).
If that kid would have taken swim lessons he would have learned the proper way to do each stroke and kick. This would include learning better propulsion, better form for streamlining his body, and building up more stamina to swim longer distances - which can be useful for more than swim team. The skills in the level would be expected to have been achieved by a sort of deadline, which would be the last day of class. He would even have learned some tips and tricks and safety information, or what to do in an emergency at the pool. Not to mention that being in an environment where there is a little competition will encourage that kid to become even better at the skills that are taught. Interaction with other kids can also broaden a kid's view of other people or help him make new friends. And, of course, a swim class is no fun unless you play sharks and minnows... at least a dozen times. Teaching himself or herself how to swim is a successful way for your kid to learn swimming skills - but kids swimming lessons are a much more effective way for him or her to learn.
Now you know which one is better, but which way of learning to swim is faster? You might be surprised by my answer.
American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Book
American Red Cross Fundamentals of Instructor Training Participants Manual