What to look for in a class
"With the little ones, age 6 weeks to 3-year-olds, look for a program that is progressive, yet loving," says Jennifer Hill, owner of The Swim Center in Georgia. "A program should encourage parents and educate them about how to hold their babies in the water. They should see the parents as an extension of the learning process and teach them how to continue this education at home and on vacations."
It's also important that there be no more than 10 infants per certified instructor; this ensures that you and your child get the attention you need. Make sure it's a clean facility -- and be sure to check out those locker rooms, where you and your little one will be changing (and possible showering) before and after classes and using the restrooms. The water temperature in the pool should be between 86 and 92 degrees, and there should be a lifeguard on duty at all times.
What you can expect your child to learn
Baby and toddler swim classes are more focused on fun than on form, so expect to sing lots of songs and engage in activities that help your child get comfortable in the water. But eventually your little one will to learn how to sit on the ledge and even jump off into your arms when ready; slide into the water, then reach back to the ledge with his hand to hold on (this is an important lesson to learn should he accidentally fall in); how to dog paddle with your help; float on his back with your help; and blow bubbles on the water's surface, which will help him control his breathing when he learns to put his head in and under the water when he's older.
"Children in this age group need constant repetition and it doesn't matter if it comes from a certified instructor, or from a parent who has had hands-on instruction from that instructor in the water to teach them how to handle their children," says Hill.
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