A Parent's Guide to Your Child's First Swimming Classes - All your Questions Answered


A Parent's Guide to Your Child's First Swimming Classes - All your Questions Answered

Your child’s first swimming class is a milestone in their development.

Our swimming school teachers regularly get asked questions from parents about how to best prepare, including what age to enrol, how many times a week they should attend lessons, and what to bring.

To save you time, we’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked the most so you can get prepped and set for your child’s first swimming lesson.

Children’s swimming lesson benefits

What’s the best age to enrol my child in a learn to swim program?

Most learn to swim programs in Australia are recommended for children aged four years and up. This guideline is backed by studies that indicate kids can master water confidence and basic locomotor skills from around this age. It also explains why foundational freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke skills are the core focus of the early phases of learn to swim programs because swimmers have the ability to learn and retain techniques.

How often should my child attend swimming lessons?

Consistency is key to your child learning to swim, and weekly lessons are proven to help swimmers progress. Select a day and time that works best to keep your swimmer’s classes a fixture in your diary. Attending regular classes means your swimmer is more likely to retain skills, grow their water confidence, and maintain momentum. Most swim schools reward regular bookings, for example, they may offer catch-up class vouchers or extend cancellation periods. Ask your swim school for more information.

Will swimming classes help to prepare my child for school?

While learning to swim is recognised as helping children develop confidence, stamina, and social skills, did you know it’s also proven to help school-aged children improve their academic performance? A few years ago, the Griffith Institute of Educational Research, Swim Australia, and Kids Alive Program teamed up to complete a study. They surveyed thousands of parents across Australia, New Zealand, and the US. The research indicates swimmers had more advanced literacy, numeracy, and oral skills and transitioned better to pre-school and school.

Prepping for your child’s swimming classes

What type of swimwear should my child wear?

First and foremost, your child’s bathers should be comfortable. A good starting tip is the better the swimwear fits, the better your child will move through the water. So save the board shorts, sunsuits, and swimsuits with accessories like bows and frills for the beach. Instead, think one-piece swimsuits, bike-length jammers, and briefs. Does your child tend to feel the cold? Consider a rash guard or swim shirt too.

Will my child need to wear goggles?

The short answer is yes! Your child will need a pair of goggles, and it’s best to get them fitted before their first swimming class. Goggles help new swimmers get comfortable with their face coming into contact with water, whether it be from splashing or practising submerging. Ensuring your child’s goggles fit correctly is essential. Most swim schools stock a range of tester goggles that will enable your swimmer to try on various styles to find the best fit.

What to expect from my first swimming lesson?

First swim classes can trigger a range of emotions from fear and excitement to nerves and feeling overwhelmed. While setting your swimmer up for a good class experience will take a bit of extra time and effort, a child’s first class sets the tone for future classes. Here are some top tips for setting your family up for their first swim class:

  • Get prepared – from making sure goggles and bathers fit, to packing your bag with your child’s favourite post-swim snack. Get organised ahead of time.
  • Arrive early – whether it’s your first time at the swim school or not, it is your swimmer’s first lesson. Arriving with plenty of time means unanticipated issues like toilet visits or fitting goggles can be resolved calmly without rushing.
  • Get comfortable with crying – swim classes can often be your child’s first formal learning experience, and crying is a typical reaction. While crying is a form of communication, it can be difficult to hear and see, particularly for parents and we’re here to reassure you it’s not a reason to stop classes. When children cry while attending a swim class, they’re telling the swimming teacher that they are uncomfortable – it’s important to not confuse this with danger.
  • Be excited – after all, your child is more likely to replicate your enthusiasm when you’re positive. This will also help your swimmer to recognise the value you place on learning to swim.

Answers to the 10 most popular questions parents ask about children’s swimming classes

1. How long will it take for my child to learn how to swim?

The honest answer is it’s difficult to predict how long it will take your child to be able to swim. It also depends on what your definition of being able to swim means. Most learn to swim programs have a learning outcome. For example, State Swim measures water competency against the ability to swim 400m of freestyle non-stop. This is our learn to swim goal and one we believe is achievable before the end of primary school. This gauge differs from Royal Life Saving’s benchmark, which states every Australian at the age of 12 years should be able to swim continuously for 50m. So before enrolling your child at your selected swim school, determine the program’s goal.


2. Can my child eat before their swimming class?

You probably grew up hearing “don’t eat 30 minutes before swimming”, and we’re here to tell you it’s sound advice. Like any sport or exercise, light snacks can be eaten half an hour before, but it’s best to wait to eat large meals until after your session to avoid regurgitation or discomfort. If your swimmer’s class is after school, giving them a pre-class snack can be tempting, but we’d suggest saving it for after class.


3. How will my swimmer be assessed?

Your swim school will outline how they review and assess a swimmer’s progress in their welcome package or induction process. More and more schools are running lessons year-round, offering continuous assessments rather than term-based classes that limit assessments to one per term. One of the many advantages of continuous assessments is swimmers are more engaged and motivated because reviews occur in every class. This means swimmers progress when they’re ready – whether that’s after two weeks or two months. Certificates and awards are presented to swimmers as they graduate each level and achieve milestones.


4. How long do swim classes tend to run for?

Learn to swim classes are 30 minutes and usually extend to 45 minutes as swimmers work on developing endurance. Half an hour is endorsed by the aquatic industry’s governing bodies, including AUSTSWIM, as it’s the optimal time for swimmers to observe, practice, and receive teacher feedback on the class’ learning goals as well as have fun and be safe. Plus, most swim schools program classes start every half-hour, so they’re easy to fit into your busy day, especially if you have more than one swimmer learning.


5. Why are most swimming classes group lessons?

Peer motivation, affordability, and socialising are just a few reasons group lessons are the preferred class type at most schools. Plus, group classes champion skill repetition. Learning to swim requires regular practice to ensure foundational skills become second nature, and it can be motivating for swimmers to witness classmates practising consistently to master a skill. Learning collaboratively can be particularly helpful when swimmers are advancing and are working on speed and endurance.


6. Will my child have to put their face in the water?

If you or your swimmer is nervous about the sensation of being underwater, we’re here to reassure you your teacher is trained to break this skill down into gradual steps and is practised at making it fun too! You’ll see teachers use various techniques such as asking a swimmer to dip their nose in the water, blow bubbles, and play games that run water over their heads to get them comfortable. Some swimmers find submersion easier than others – it may take one swimmer three classes to achieve the skill, while it might take another swimmer ten. The key is to remain consistent with attending classes at this time, as taking breaks can slow your swimmer’s progress.


7. Will the chlorine in the swimming pool water irritate my child’s skin?

Chlorine is necessary in pools to kill germs and create a healthy swimming environment. To minimise the risk of your child experiencing a chlorine skin irritation, find a swim school that uses an ultraviolet (UV) light water purification system. UV systems use light rays to purify water, keeping swimming pools clean and fresh while reducing their chlorine levels, which is gentler on children’s skin. Showering your child after their lesson helps reduce the risk of skin irritation, plus it also helps avoid making their skin dry. If your child has any skin or dermatological concerns, seek advice from your family doctor.


8. When do swimming classes run?

Swimming schools tend to either run classes all year round or during school term time only – this means regular classes are paused during school holidays. More and more swimming schools are running year-round lessons because swimming is a sport that requires regular practise to retain skills. Taking long breaks due to school holidays can mean having to relearn techniques or worse, retake classes. Whether you’re looking for after school or weekend classes we suggest finding a local swim school that fits your family’s schedule. Also, don’t forget to ask about cancellation and catch-up class policies; after all, it’s likely your child will be unable to make a lesson at some point, due to illness, holiday, etc.


9. Do children’s swimming lessons run during the school holidays?

Many swim schools offer school holiday programs, and these programs tend to be scheduled in four or five day blocks. Most swimmers usually attend one class a week, so the daily classes enable swimmers to condense an entire month of learning into a short space of time. If your swimmer is looking to grow their water confidence, achieve a specific skill or graduate to the next level, school holiday programs are the tool to get them there. Plus, they’re great at adding structure to your family’s holiday diary and guaranteeing some non-screen time.


10. Will I need to accompany my child in the pool?

Learn to swim classes are for children aged four years and older and do not require a caregiver to accompany the swimmer in the pool. However, a parent or caregiver must accompany their swimmer into the centre and ensure they arrive safely and on time

Are you ready to book your family’s swimming lessons?

State Swim has an eight-stage learn to swim program for children aged four years and older. When you join the State Swim family on a monthly payment option, you’ll enjoy perks, including unlimited Make-Up Vouchers, first access to book school holiday programs and 24/7 access to manage your bookings.


State Swim is a registered Swim Australia aquatic educator. All State Swim swimming teachers hold nationally recognised swimming and water teacher accreditationsWorking with Children Checks and CPR qualifications.

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