Water activities and the lazy days of summer go together. Now is the perfect time to sign kids up for swimming lessons. In Tacoma, Washington summertime means you can choose from programs at outdoor and indoor pools throughout the city. Nothing beats getting into a pool on a warm, sunny day with sunshine sparkling on the water. Just remember, swim lessons occur rain or shine and in the sometimes drizzly Pacific Northwest we joke summer doesn’t start until July 15th.
If your child loves the water regardless of whether it’s from a pool or puddle, no worries, but if your kid shivers at the slightest breeze and hates being wet and cold, you might want to select an indoor lesson option. My son tried, and generally just complained about his lessons at an outdoor pool. The two weeks seemed to last forever. He eventually learned to swim in an indoor pool and grew to love swimming. He even participated on a team for a couple of years much to our surprise.
In Tacoma, the local YMCA and Metro Park District pools provide a variety of excellent classes for children learning to swim and kids looking to improve their skills. Some facilities also offer summer swim teams if your child is looking for competition. Many instructors are also the lifeguards at the pools. A lot of programs employ college students who teach during the peak summer season. Their youthful enthusiasm engages young tots to pre-teens. Fun is just as big a part of the lessons as teaching skills, and enjoyment of swimming is the overall goal of everyone. If your child is not having fun you may want to reconsider whether they are ready for lessons or perhaps look into another teacher or class.
The Morgan Family Branch of the Pierce County, Washington YMCA located at 1002 South Pearl Street (253) 564-9622 offers group swimming classes for children starting at age 3. Classes are included in your family’s monthly dues so if you are already a member this option won’t cost you any more. Just remember this facility has a Subway franchise in the lobby and swimming makes kids hungry so your “free classes” might still cost you something in the end regardless. Contact the YMCA for specific membership information. Financial scholarships are sometimes available for low-income or special needs members. The YMCA splits the class offerings into preschool classes that are geared for kids 3-5 years old, and youth classes that serve ages 6-15 years old. Advanced swimmers can even take lifeguard classes.
The preschool classes are small skill-based lessons that begin at the lowest level, Pike, in which children learn to breath, float and paddle. The highest level of preschool swimmers are called Starfish who learn front, side and back stroke skills, and can swim without assistance for up to 40 yards. Youth classes start with the Polliwogs whose skills include breathing, floating, and side, front and back stroke. Children advance through four additional levels until they are eligible to enroll in Sharks which is dedicated to improving stroke, endurance and competitive swim skills. The YMCA also offers swim teams to give children of various ages and abilities an opportunity to experience the fun of team competition.
Class sizes are limited, but readily available Monday through Saturday throughout the year. Placement is based on age and skill level. Contact the branch for specific times and dates. In addition to the Tacoma branch, the Pierce County YMCA has branches in Lakewood, Puyallup and Gig Harbor. Hours of operation and class availability vary.
The Tacoma Metro Parks district is a great place to look for lessons during the summer months, especially. Their indoor pools have lessons year round, but during warmer months you can arrange for lessons in outdoor pools at Titlow and Stewart Heights Parks. Check options and register on line or call Metro Parks for more information at (253)305-1015.
Metro Park’s instructors follow the skill-based Swim America program. Group lessons are available to preschool children 3-4 years old at the Eastside, Mt. Tahoma, Stewart Heights and Foss pools. Lessons for older children, 5-14, are also available at those pools and at the outdoor Titlow pool in the summer.
Regardless of age all swimmers begin at Station #1 learning basic beginning water skills such as putting their face in the water, blowing bubbles, bobbing etc. Once children master those skills they move to the next station which teaches them front and back float and recovery skills and gliding. The next station builds on those skills and adds kicking to the mix. Children progress based on their mastery of specific skills. By the 10th and final station students work on improving stroke technique and build endurance. Graduates must be able to swim 300 yards freestyle, 100 yards backstroke, etc.
Class placement is based on age and swimming ability. All classes are 30 minutes and filled on a first come first served basis. Most have room for just 3 to 8 students per time slot and skill level. Classes generally last 8 to 10 sessions. During the summer when school is out a number of classes are offered daily, Monday through Friday, but schedules vary. Some evening and Saturday classes are available too. For more information which pools offer what classes and when contact Metro Parks. Fees per class average $36 for residents, and $39 for non-residents. Proof of residency is required. Private lessons are also available, but the cost is $20 for one student and $25 for two per 30 minute lesson.
Accidental drowning claims the lives of too many children each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accidental drowning accounts for almost 30% of fatalities among tots ages 1 to 4 and is the second leading cause of unintentional death among children under 14. Given those scary statistics it makes a lot of sense to get your children enrolled in swimming lessons as soon as they are eligible. A number of public and private facilities offer assistance to low-income families because learning to swim is important.
Education and training are the best ways to prevent accidental drowning. Children who know how to swim can look forward to enjoying the pleasures and exercise benefits of water sports. Sign your child up for lessons today.