Swim lessons are sometimes thought of as an extra activity for your kids to do like soccer or dance lessons, but the truth is that swim lessons can help save the life of a child. Most of us don’t think about swim lessons for our children until late spring when we start to think about summer time, and taking the kids to the pool as a fun activity. But what if your child doesn’t know how to swim?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a study by Ruth Brenner in 2009 stating that participation in formal swimming lessons could reduce the risk of drowning especially when combined with fencing around pools, training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and adult supervision. Even if swim lessons are one piece of the puzzle, it is still a critical piece of the puzzle that our children are actively part of. So how do we know where to go to get swim lessons that will teach our children the key elements to learning how to survive in the water?
Many pools in the area offer swim lesson by lifeguards, pool instructors, or private lessons with a swim coach. But is there “structure” or a curriculum that they follow? How do you know if your child is progressing? I have taken my children to swim lessons at various pools over the years, and each time the instructor tells me they are “doing good,” but I never knew what that meant. They still couldn’t swim on their own, so to me, I didn’t feel like they were “doing good.”
Recently we took our children to the Goldfish Swim School® in McMurray, Pennsylvania. It is right off of Route 19, and easy to get to. I really like that is its own building with plenty of parking. The building from the outside is just stone bricks, but when you walk in you feel like you walked into an island adventure! Palm trees, corrugated metal roofs over the changing areas, thatched roofs over the hair drying station, and a welcoming reception area with helpful and smiling staff members. Enrollment couldn’t have been easier, either. We discussed my children’s prior experiences and the friendly staff suggested an appropriate class for each of them – classes that ran concurrently, at the same time.
When you arrive for your first lesson one of the friendly staff members give you a Goldfish Swim School® bag filled with helpful information, t-shirts for the kids, and your children’s scan tags. They go over all the information with you and ask you to sign some waivers.
The scan tags are exactly like the tags you have when you go to the gym, but each child has their own. You simply scan the tag and the computer will tell you which lane number your child will be in during their lesson.
The changing areas are nice and large, with plenty of changing rooms. Until it is time for your child to enter for their lesson, there is plenty to keep them occupied. There is a crayon coloring stations, wooden play station, and a small aquarium with fish and some turtles. What I really appreciated is the large waiting area for parents. This area is the largest waiting area of any waiting area I have ever been in for any of my children’s activities. Finally! Once the instructors are ready for your children they call them into the pool area by shouting out “Aloha Parents.”
Each child is placed into the appropriate class based on their age and swimming skills. There are 13 different levels at Goldfish Swim School® from beginner, Mini 1, for as young as 4 months to advance, Swim Force, for as old as 12 years of age. No matter what level your child starts out at there are several skills in each level that the child must learn in order to progress to the next level. Some skills include the Crab Crawl, a 5 second Sea Otter Float, Simple Freestyle with Side Breaths, to Treading water. Each lesson is approximately 30 minutes and the average student to teacher ratio is 4:1. I really like that the pool has a seat that runs the length of the pools so the kids can sit and watch their fellow students without having to get in and out of the pool while waiting for their turn with the instructor.
All instructors are also lifeguards, CPR and first aid, and defibrillator certified. They must undergo at least 40 hours of in-house training on top of watching several videos on swim instruction before they will be allowed to instruct on their own. Even the welcoming staff at the reception desk are certified CPR, first aid, and defibrillator. Because there is a curriculum that the school follows, each instructor has a good understanding of how your child is progressing.
After each lesson, they give you verbal feedback of what they worked on this week, and what they plan to accomplish next week. If your child reached or mastered a skill they are rewarded with a ribbon for the skill. Every quarter, parents receive a progress report with various check boxes of skills. If you child has accomplished them, then those skills will be checked. When the instructors and supervisory deck instructor feel like your child has mastered the skills in their level, they will then talk with the parents about moving them up to the next level. There is no right or wrong with these lessons even though it is more curriculum based. It is all about practice and confidence to master various skills.
Once the swim lessons are over and you are finished talking with your child’s instructor about their progress for the day, there is a long line of showers that you can have your kids rinse off. They must keep their bathing suits on, but this gives you can opportunity to get that chlorine out of their hair and off their body. The Goldfish Swim School® makes their own combination of chlorine, so the pool area doesn’t so badly smell of chlorine and neither do the kids, but it is always good to give them a rinse. In the shower area, they provide Johnson and Johnson® body wash, but you are more than welcome to bring your own shampoo and body wash.
Once they are done in the shower, there are plenty of changing rooms available. They are all quite spacious, allowing you to fit yourself and up to three small children.
After changing into dry clothes, there is a station with plenty of blow dryers with mirrors which is great especially in the winter time. If you can’t seem to get that damp out of your child’s swim suit, throw it into the swimsuit centrifuge to get rid of that excess water. When you take the swimsuit out of the centrifuge, it is almost completely dry.
I have to say that myself and my family have been really impressed with our experience at the Goldfish Swim School® in Peters Township. We have had only four swim lessons and during the third lesson my six-year-old was able to grab rings under the water. She also learned to do freestyle and to turn on her back and float when she got tired. My three-year-old learned to do the crab crawl along the side of the pool, and to turn around to go back to the wall after jumping into the water. Our family is going to continue with swim lessons here, and I just know in a few more sessions I am going to see my kids swimming confidently.
Swim lesson are provided all year so make sure to call now to secure your spot with Goldfish Swim School®. Peters Township in the South Hills (724-942-7946) and Wexford, PA (724-799-8850).