little swimmers swim for life

June 20, 2013 |  Category:   life nyc parenting




Some kids take to water like fish and the girls are no exception. They can stay in the pool for hours. I never learned how to swim properly as a kid, so I’m not a strong swimmer (I can swim, but not really well). I really wanted the girls to take swim lessons early on because I do have a fear of drowning and swimming is such an important life skill to have (btw, have you read this article on what drowning really looks like? If you haven’t yet, you should). Mia took swimming lessons a few years ago and she did learn how to swim, but I think she needs at least another round of classes to properly learn the strokes and get better at swimming longer distances and in deeper water. We’ve been stalling on Claudine’s swim lessons until we knew for sure she would be comfortable in a swim class, but to our surprise she figured out how to float on our last day at a pool last summer. When we went swimming for the first time this season last Saturday, she picked right up where she left off and figured out how to swim on her own within 20 minutes of being in the water. I watched her for the 2 hours she was in the pool and I’ve never seen as much determination on her face and in her little body as I did that day. She didn’t even want to play with Mia in the water; all she wanted to do was swim laps across the pool the whole time.


NYC initiated a program called “Swim For Life” about 2 years ago and the program was made available in our school this year. It partners local YMCAs with public schools and offers swim classes to second graders for 10 weeks as part of the normal school curriculum, partly to give disadvantaged minority children in the city an opportunity to learn how to swim (let’s be frank here; swim lessons cost money and it’s unfortunate that money is a factor in learning a skill that can be life saving. I know I’ve been lackadaisical myself about enrolling the kids in swim classes because of it). I had heard rumors throughout the school year that the second graders were going swimming, but I just couldn’t believe how the logistics worked. I mean, how do you walk 24 second graders 8 blocks to the local YMCA, swim for an hour, get changed out of wet bathing suits and into regular clothes and walk back the 8 blocks to school every single week? But apparently it works! I’m really pleased that Claudine will be able to take advantage of the program as she goes into second grade next year, provided that our school will be offering it again after this pilot year (and I really hope it does). Drowning is scary and while I’m glad I no longer have to go in the water with the girls every time we go swimming now that they are older, I still hover near the edge of the pool with my eyes on them the whole time. It’s probably the one time where I act like a helicopter parent. So do yourself and your kids a favor – teach them how to swim. Statistics say that accidental drowning is the second leading cause of death to young children. With the way these girls love the water, it’s enough of a reason to revisit putting swim classes as top priority above other extracurricular activities.

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  • Ann June 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you for this post! It is so important to know how to swim.
    Swimming is the only sport I have my son signed up for year round -luckily he LOVES it. At 7 he is a better swimmer than his dad. I think this summer he will be helping my husband w/ his strokes and breathing 🙂
    I was just reading about Bronx born Cullen Jones, who after a near drowning incident in a water park at 5, learned to swim and went on to win 4 Olympic medals in swimming. He is part of Make a Splash – teaching NYC kids how to swim.
    Enjoy the pool this summer. And fingers crossed the school continues with the swimming lessons next school year. That is a great program.
    *ps the photos are incredible!

  • hnahk June 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    drowning is also one of my biggest fears. i have a bucket list of sorts for my kids and swimming is def top on that list. i took lessons as an adult but it never really stuck. my kids (3 and 4 years) are taking their first lessons this summer! and that article on drowning is a great reminder for parents:
    “And parents—children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.”

  • Sophia June 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    It was a priority for me to sign my son up for swim lessons year round. I never really learned how to swim properly for a variety of reasons..but mostly I think not spending a lot of time around water when i was younger be it through lessons or lifestyle resulted in me being overly nervous when my son was near pools, lakes, etc.
    the investment in time, money and discipline has definitely paid off for us as I can see not only has he learned (and is still learning) proper strokes and breathing techniques to swim efficiently, the skills he has learned makes him so much more comfortable in the water and I can see that he can now really swim much more independently and freely…which is really fun to see as a parent. I envy his swim skills…makes me want to sign up to learn. Never too late, right?

  • Cravate Noire June 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    What a wonderful idea, wish we had these programs in place back in the 80’s when we were in school. Never wait till your grown up to learn how to swim, there just aren’t as many swim classes for adults as there are for children.

  • Jennelle June 20, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I could only hope that one day I can look as comfortable in the water as your girls look up there!

    I have a huge fear of the water, and hopefully it’s not too late to conquer that fear and finally learn how to swim. Despite my own fear about the water, swim was the first ever classes my kids were exposed to because I also believe it is a very important skill for them to have.

  • Nancy June 20, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    At the Y in Riverdale, a friend and I split semi-private lessons with a swim instructor and it wasn’t too expensive– I think under $100 for each of us. So, if you can gather a group of the girls’ friends and sign on an instructor to teach them, it could be more cost-effective. You could also keep an eye out for Groupons, etc for swim lessons. I used one once for New York Sports Club, for my oldest daughter.

  • Therese June 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing the link to what drowning actually looks like. I really had no idea it could look like nothing at all except for a few small clues. Will share this with as many people as possible.

  • Lulu June 24, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Both my kids learn to swim on their own when we moved in to our current house with a pool. Both were under 10. I was told that its not sufficient this “learn on your own swimming” that i still need to take them in for lessons. But didn’t all people years ago just “learned on their own”?

    • Jenna June 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Ha, they did! But you know how things are right now. The pressure to put your kids in lessons of every kind, overbook them with extracurricular activities. I also learned to swim on my own, but I’m not a strong swimmer, so I guess in this instance, because of my own particular experience, I can see how the girls would benefit from actually learning proper techniques of strokes and breathing…

  • M.Y. June 26, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Hi, Jenna,

    Love the photos, especially the first one.
    Are you planning to print and put on sale?
    I’d love to have one!
    Thank you as always for great stories and photos.