The YMCA and American Red Cross Infant and Toddler Programs:
The programs offered are primarily designed to help parents get their infants or toddlers adjusted to the water and ready to learn to swim when they're older.
The YMCA promotes "water enrichment and aquatic readiness activities" in its program and offers separate classes based on four levels of developmental ability, according to their Parent/Child and Preschool Aquatic Program Manual.
Similarly, the American Red Cross Infant and Preschool Aquatic Program focuses on basic water orientation and preparation for swimming using a variety of fun activities. In their Infant and Preschool Aquatic Program Parent's Guide, they introduce their aquatic program and offer some practical advice on children's water activities. (For more information, contact your local Red Cross chapter: www.redcross.org.)
In either case, if you take the AAP's advice and look at these water adjustment and introduction programs as just that and not swimming lessons per se, you and your little one are bound to have lots of fun together in the pool. Not to mention, he or she will be so much more comfortable in the water when the real lessons start.
3 to 5 Years: Preschool Lessons
While age is used as a general guideline for enrollment, both the YMCA and Red Cross programs look at the child's developmental and skill level when determining which class is most appropriate.
The YMCA divides this age group into four levels: Pike, Eel, Ray, and Starfish. The Red Cross has three levels: Pre-Level 1, Pre-Level 2, and Pre-Beginners. (For the specifics about each level, please consult your local Y or Red Cross program.)
Either way, you can expect your preschooler to be exposed to at least the following:
- Water adjustment including face submersion
- Games and songs
- Flotation devices
- Blowing bubbles in preparation for side breathing
- Floating and rolling over
- Paddling and kicking on front and back