Do Kids Need Swimming Lessons?

Up until this weekend, BigBrother was timid in the pool. He would cling to me for most of the time spent in my parent’s pool. Eventually he would find enough nerve to jump off the side into someone’s waiting arms, and on a rare occasion, he might swim with swimmies (you know, floaties) and a pool noodle. But none of that “on his own” business. Until he saw his sister swimming like a fish this past weekend.

Now?

Swimming

LittleBrother was always a fish. He would “swim” with his swimmies on, occasionally asking for help when he got tired. He wasn’t really a fan of putting his face in the water though and would sometimes panic if he thought you weren’t paying attention (which we always were).

Grin

I missed swimming lesson sign ups for all classes in our area. Though LittleBrother is technically too young, I have been informed by parents who are better than me that BigBrother should have already had two years of said classes under his swimming trunk elastic. I have failed yet again.

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But do kids need swimming lessons?

I ask this not knowing the answer. I’m all about safety. I am 100% for children learning the importance of safety around water, how to properly swim and to learn to love and respect the water. But classroom settings, even in a pool, stress BigBrother out. In fact, the thought of swimming class stresses me out and both of my sons play heavily on how I react. Will swimming lessons be beneficial? Are they an absolute necessity?

I understand that my kids are still using floating devices and are therefore not technically swimming. I would never leave them unattended in their swimming devices just like I would never leave them alone without those helpful bits of floatie stuff. I’m not asking for permission to do so. What I’m wondering is if I have to shell out money for something I can technically teach the kids on my own or, really, that they can learn while in the pool with others.

This isn’t like the issue of organized sports. I believe they learn all kinds of things in a setting like t-ball (for which we have a year end pizza party tonight) or soccer (which went incredibly well this past winter). I think things like basketball camp can teach kids great skills that they can use in a team setting and even in real life. And, really, I’m not the one who should be teaching either of these kids how to properly handle a soccer ball with their feet seeing as how I never played. But I can swim and I can swim well. Can I teach them? Should I teach them? Will they learn from someone else better?

In short: did your kids take swimming lessons or did you teach them or a combination of the two or neither or… please chime in on my inner dialogue, okay?

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38 Replies to “Do Kids Need Swimming Lessons?”

  1. Liam started swimming lessons at 9 months and he was quickly dubbed “the screamer”. He hated it! I gave up by the time he was 3ish… He loved the water but was scared to death of it. Until he spent a summer at day camps that had swimming every day and peer pressure got him over it. He went from clinging to my head to jumping off the diving board with no floating-anything in under 2 months.

    So short answer, no I don’t think you need to pay for lessons. You can teach pool safety the same way you teach them to cross the road safely. Repetition and leading by example!

    I hope you have a fun water filled summer!

  2. Considering that I’m in my 30’s and still don’t know how to swim, I think kids should learn the basics. I don’t think it has to be from classes, though. They could probably learn the same thing from someone who knows how to swim teaching them, couldn’t they? I’m a big fan of multiple floaties (around waist, arms, maybe even a lifejacket, heh) myself.

    1. Apparently there’s something crazy called “private lessons.” The things I didn’t know until the Internet taught me. I’m looking into it. (My MIL can’t swim either.)

  3. We haven’t signed Avery up for lessons yet. Not sure if we will. I learned to swim just from spending day after summer day at the pool with my grandparents. That’s not a luxury everyone has, but I learned how to hold my breath, kick my legs, doggie paddle, etc…all with the help of family members.

    Of course, our motivation came from Grandpa – because $5 would be ours when we could swim from one end of the pool to the other and back without touching down. It was a rite of passage that whole generation of our family.

    1. I had one swim lesson class back in the day at the scary old YMCA in East Liverpool. Then my parents taught me the rest, and a school friend taught me to dive. Also, $5 would have totally been a motivating factor for me, too!

  4. I never took lessons as a kid and I ended up on a swim team in high school. But I grew up in Florida where everyone had a pool in their backyard and the ocean was 20 minutes away. My parents taught us themselves way early. I don’t remember “learning” – I just remember swimming.

    However, I am taking Owen to swim classes this summer (10months) and will continue every summer. Not because I think he needs to in order to ever swim but because I want him to be as comfortable in the water as I was growing up and I think it is a good experience for him.

    If your boys are comfortable and happy in the water, it’s totally up to how comfortable you feel teaching them the basics!

  5. PLEASE I beg you to find and enroll them both when they are of age to take swim lessons. The only motivator I have is please remember my dear Bryson, and enroll them in swim lessons. Also look for the swim VESTS (wal-mart) they tend to make children more comfortable in the pool and provide more flotation them the little swimmers. IE..keeping the head above water. Little swimmers dont support the head and can slip down and or off completely.

    YMCA, local public pools both usually have lessons, and here we have people offer in home lessons too. Bryson would have had lessons this spring/summer.

    1. I missed our YMCA and Red Cross sign ups. (One I missed completely. The other filled up before I called.) We really live in a horrible area. LOL The thing BB was wearing was a vest type thing that snapped around his back and was fabulous. LB wore it a few times but Dee only had two and her son was wearing the other one. I didn’t get a photo of him in it though. I’m trying to locate some of them but their pool store was out! Looking looking.

  6. I think whether they have lessons or you teach them is up to you. If you feel like you know how to swim and you want to be in the water on a consistent basis, I’d say go for it. I think it’s really, really, really important though that kids know enough that if something happens (falling in a pool, tipping over in a boat, even falling over in the baby pool) they have some sort of plan.

    I don’t think that the class environment is necessary or helpful for all children, but I think if you’re not going to do it or not able to do it, it is a good alternative. I feel particularly strongly because water seems to have such an appeal to children. I think it’s also very easy for these kids to get into a dangerous situation without realizing it.

  7. Kiddo took swim lessons at the YMCA. I was extremely disappointed in them. I am a lousy swimmer so me teaching Kiddo is not an option. I will be paying for swimming classes again somewhere else hoping for a better outcome.

    As for you teaching BB and LB how to swim depends on whether or not they will listen to you & follow your instructions as well as what you want to teach them. Just how to do the basic swimming without floaties? How to float & get out of the pool with clothes on in the event of an accident? Or swimteam type swimming? Most swimming classes at BB’s age are 3-4 kids his age. A good instructor will make it not seem “classlike”. Being in a class brought out something in Kiddo that I couldn’t. He was not afraid to be in the pool “by himeself” for the 1st time EVER. He did things for the teacher he would never do for me (and still doesn’t), including putting his face in the water.

    I think a combination might be work for your kids, each one in their own class. The classes are 30-40mins, M-F, for 2 weeks. They teach the basics plus how to get out of the pool if you fall in. Most of the swim schools down here don’t let parents in the pool area so the boys wouldn’t be feeding off your anxieties. You can watch through a plexiglass wall in the Parent’s waiting area. Then you can reinforce the lessons on your own.

    I’ve done lots of research as you can see. You will, as always, do what is best. What does FireDad think?

    1. I missed the YMCA sign ups for this year but, if it’s like our other YMCA experiences, it will be unorganized at best. I love the YMCA but, man, organization is where they are lacking. I don’t think poor organization skills plus water equal anything I want to be involved with … especially with my kids!

      I’m going to research the option of private lessons now. Hopefully the area in which we live does not fail me this time.

  8. Despite not being a parent, I thought I’d chime in and offer sentiments in a similar vein to Chrystal. I grew up practically ON Lake Erie. Not everyone had a pool by me, but our family did belong to a country club. My mother had my sister and I take lessons at the pool in a class and while we both loved the loved the water, my mother hated the atmosphere and the lack of attention. As a result, she signed up me, my sister and my brother for private lessons with one of the instructors at her family’s house. It was empowering, developmental, and educational. We were leaps and bounds ahead of my peers back at the pool and we learned fun games to play.

    All of that is to say that group lessons aren’t necessarily the only option – but knowing how to swim just from those lessons alone got me to pass out of the swimming requirement at our alma mater. I clearly learned a thing or two. :) And my sister swam competitively throughout middle and high schools.

    If there’s one reason I haven’t seen yet echoed, it’d be the effects aside from the pragmatics of swimming. You can’t force them in the pool, but when a kid feels the success from learning from a good, qualified instructor, it’s an awesome sight, I imagine, for the parents (or at least, so says my mom) :)

    1. Until this post and your (fabulous) comment, I didn’t even know/think of private lessons. I’m going to research this option. Hopefully someone does it around here. I feel like that would be a better option for BB if not LB as well.

      Thank you times twelve.

  9. Not a parent here either but wanted to say that I took swim lessons from a young age and I thought it was very good for me. My brother and I ended up enrolled in swim team and I feel so very comfortable in the water. At the very least, I think proper swimming instructions are necessary – whether with a large group or with private lessons. It just seems safe, to avoid a potential “what if” moment, you know?

    Best of luck with your decision!

    1. See, I didn’t even know about private lessons until I made this post. HOORAY! I’m going to research those around the area. Thanks for the comment, Ari!

  10. The boys have all had at least one year of swim classes at the YMCA. I think Colin and Ter have had two. They’ve also had countless hours of swim stroke lessons from the numerous serious swimmers in our lives, whether that be Dad, GodFather, Grandfather one or two, Uncles, etc. We come from a family of life guards, so I suppose we look at swimming kind of you look at fire safety, seeing as you have a firefighter in the house.

    Personally, I choose professional lessons for them because at the end of the day, I wanted to make sure they had the core basics of how to stay alive, be safe, and keep others safe from someone other than me, as kids tend to take non-family members more seriously sometimes (at least mine do). Plus, I didn’t have to worry about “leaving anything out”. This was paid for, this was a professional, this was the important stuff – I knew it and they knew it.

    That’s what worked for us. I don’t suppose the kids needed it (considering how many good swimmers we have in the fam), but it was a “better safe than sorry” considering how much water we have (seeing as we have a pool open 12 months of the year in our back yard).

    I don’t by any means think they are a must for everyone though.

    1. I would also note that the boys are all proficient swimmers now – no safety devices needed and have been that way for about four years (even Jake). But I think that has more to do with proximity and time in the water than the classes themselves.

    2. From everyone’s comments, I’m leaning back toward the idea of lessons. Though, since I fail and missed the local offerings, I need to research private lessons. Back to the drawing board I go! Thanks for your input!

  11. Well, if BB should have two years of lessons, then I TOTALLY fail, as my kid is 7.5 and just took swimming lessons for the first time last week. I’m kind of a “flail around” sort of swimmer, myself, and we joined a pool this summer, so I wanted her to have lessons. It helps that the teacher is a very charismatic young man, and–not that it would matter to BB, I’m sure–his name is Justin. (“Mom, like Justin Bieber!” *snort*) She’s a pretty social little kid, and liked the idea of learning with other kids. Also, our pool is pretty crowded and full of other people (and distractions) during regular hours, but lessons happen before the pool is open, so it’s quiet and her focus is much better.

    Just the idea of swimming lessons got her to go from “won’t jump in the pool or stray far from the edge” to “jumping in with enthusiasm”. Now, after a week of lessons, M-F for 45 minutes, she can propel herself pretty well across the pool. I’m very glad that we chose to do the lessons, and are continuing this week. If I could swim, myself, and had access to a quiet pool, I probably would have taught her myself, though, and some time ago.

    1. At least we fail together. I worry about BB NOT being very social and therefore freaking out about other kids. He especially doesn’t like a social setting if he thinks/feels/fears someone is already better than him at something. I wonder where he gets that trait. (FAIL.)

  12. Jamison had a water baby’s class last spring. It wasn’t learn to swim or anything but a more “don’t be afraid of the water” class. Lots of singing songs while moving in a circle doing different movements and splashing so they know splashing and the accidental water in the face isn’t bad. I want to sign him up for more classes through the YMCA soonish though. I started taking lessons when I was three, my mom just told me I could float on my back and do the back stroke when I was three. So in that regards I’ve totally failed my son as he can’t even remember to keep his mouth closed. If you want BB to take a class I would find out who the teacher is and observe a class. I was a really shy kid and because I was scared of putting my face in the water she taught me the back stroke instead. She never pushed me to do something I didn’t want. There are some teachers who do push though, one reason my niece quit lessons last year. The teacher insisted she she jump off the deep end and she wasn’t comfortable. I think lessons are good, especially if your child is going to be around water a lot, which I was growing up and Jamison will be too seeing as we live 2 miles from a great lake and his grandparents have a cabin on a lake.

  13. Don’t worry about it. I learned to swim when I was 4, and I like to believe my mother did a fantastic job of teaching me! I eventually did take swimming lessons when I was older, but this was only to learn different kinds of strokes (like the butterfly).
    In my opinion, kids don’t NEED swimming lessons if their parents are willing and capable to teach them. I think it doesn’t matter how they learn to swim, as long as they learn.

  14. Curious Girl took swimming lessons starting at around 3.5, mostly b/c some friends were taking them, and she really enjoyed the idea that she and some of her friends from daycare were all down at the JCC on Sunday afternoons taking their swim lesson together. CG has always been a little fish (worrisomely so, as she aspired to be independent in the water in advance of her actual ability to float or tread water). We kept up the lessons for a while, but I honestly don’t know that they did much for her. She was always happy in the water and the very young kid swim lessons seemed to focus a lot on producing comfort in the water–games to get kids to put their heads in and whatnot.

    We switched to semi-private lessons with another friend who was a really good swimmer (relative for their ages) when she was 5 and 6, and that was great. Much less time sitting on the side of the pool waiting a turn. When she was around 6, she seemed to make great progress–something just kicked in and she was able to really coordinate her movements. I’m not so sure the younger swimming lessons really mattered–she wasn’t that coordinated earlier and it was harder to put all the movements together.

    So do your boys need lessons now? I don’t know that I have a clear answer to the question: you’re clearly helping them learn comfort and safety in the water. Maybe they’ll take to lessons easier when they’re both a little older. Or maybe (semi)private lessons would be the way to go.

  15. First of all, you are not a failure because your kids haven’t taken swimming lessons yet. My beautiful daughter was almost 5 before she started dance and to hear others talk I had deprived her at any possibility of success. I felt awful but soon learned it was ok. We watched numerous other girls that started at 2 and 3 years old drop out each year. Molly is almost 14 and still dancing (4 or 5 hours a week this coming year). So there. Sometimes late is better than early. Kids need to be kids!!!

    As for swimming lessons; I put all 3 of mine ( now 15,13 and 11) through private swimming lessons. We have 2 large lakes in our back yard and I was fearful of them not being comfortable in the water and falling in our lakes. I wanted them to know how to swim. The lakes are pretty BUT very high on the list of almost irrational fears Ive had as a mom. I made them wear life jackets if they were playing within 10 feet of the lake for years. Can you say paranoid?

    I truly believe having regular access to a pool is very important too. My father in law , that lives across the lakes in our backyard ,put a pool in when my oldest was 5. The opportunity to swim everyday helped my kids as much as swimming lessons. The younger two learned to swim early. By 3 my daughter was everywhere in the pool, yes she had lessons at 2 1/2 , At that point inf life I was an annoying overachiever mom and begged the lady to teach her even though she thought she was too young.

    By the time my youngest was ready to hit the water at 15 months old I learned the best tool was the swimsuit I got him. I am a firm believer in this swim suit for kids; you can see them at a website called my pool pal. I initially got it because I did not feel I could keep 3 kids 5 and under at the pool by myself. I needed something Brockington could not get out of too easily. I realized that I still had to watch him but it gave him independance and gave me a few seconds to grab him before he was under completely. lol. I even bought another one for him to wear through age 4 because it helped him and i knew if he got tired he had a little extra help. He had more room to actually swim than with a life jacket or arm wings.

    Lastly, the reason I truly know it helped him learn to swim is because of a trip to Nashville we took with my husband when Brockington was only 3 1/2. I didn’t bring the swimsuit becuase I forgot to pack it. My husband being the sweet generous person that he is offers to take the kids swimming and give me a break since he had been on the display floor all day working while I chased 3 kids. They returned to the room and my husband George was dry as in he hadn’t been in the pool and the kids were all wet. I immediately asked ummm what did Brockington do? My husband said oh he just swam with Molly and Gray. I said he can’t swim, what do you mean he swam? He said to me well he did swim. I thought he was crazy. He said he didn’t know Brockington couldn’t swim and he jumped in and took off so he didn’t think anything about it. What we learned that day is that my husband is often clueless (we laugh about it now) and that wearing the suit had actually helped Brockington learn how to move correctly and he could now actually swim. He was 3 1/2 and had not taken swimming lessons yet. I was graduating from being over achiever mom at this point; I was in survival mode with since I had 3 kids in 4 years.

    Oh and if you have a pool you can use I think it helps to take swimming lessons in a familiar pool in familiar surrounds.

    That’s my 20 dollars worth since this was a very long post. Ive been reading your blog for a while and rarely comment but I love your writing. I teach photography to homeschool kids and if I remember correctly that’s how I stumbled on your blog. A photography question search.

    take care and enjoy swimming. I know you will make the right decision.

    Tina

  16. Jen…Jayson and Cassidy have never taken swim lessons. Mom has an inground pool that goes from 3 ft to about 10 ft deep. They both taught themselves and w help from family how to swim and are fish now. They actually swim better than I do. Jay does flips into the deep end and goes down the water slide. Cass will swim under water from the shallow to the deep and back again. I was a mean mom when they were lilttle and in the pool because everytime I would make them go under at least one time, either on there own or with my help. I dont think that they need to be in swim lessons to learn how to swim.

  17. Yes, I believe that kids need swimming lessons. Swimming lessons were the one thing my parents paid for when I was growing up. I had them every summer for many years. My father initially taught us how to behave in the water, but then we took lessons.

    With Jack, he had Mommy & Me swimming at 6 months, but I hated the set up, so we didn’t go back there for “real” lessons. Then, I took him to a place that really wasn’t our style. This summer, we’re trying the regional park district.

    Now, I live in California, so pretty much everyone here takes swimming lessons in one form or another. My husband, from Pennsylvania, never took them, and it really shows now that he’s expected to swim. My sister actually taught swimming lessons and was a lifeguard, and I wished she lived nearby so she could teach Jack.

    I also don’t believe in floaties. A friend of mine requires them for kids to swim in her pool, so I got Jack a foam “backpack” of sorts that leaves his arms free to actually swim. Unfortunately, because of last year’s swimming lesson disaster, he’s afraid to go under the water at all. It’s really important to make sure that you and the instructor are on the same page.

  18. Ok, so everyone else has covered most of my thoughts. We had a great Y when we lived in MA. Here is ok, but expensive. Fish (aptly named) had swim lessons via her summer program from 3 on. She really shined. Mim, has never been a HUGE fan of the water (gets that from his Dad). He went to the same summer program, but didn’t progress like she did, not their fault, just a different kid. This past year, he’s taken swim lessons at the Y one day a week and made HUGE strides (he’s just turned six). He doesn’t have to love the water, but he does have to know what do to once in the water. I’m not a patient person, and I know I’m a crappy teacher, so I had to find someone else to teach my kids. I love the water and sometimes I’m frustrated by his reluctance. These teachers made fun games and he loved it. Once I got past the administration of the Y, the pool staff was great. Ours runs classes year round, (and yes, the kid has to be a member too, but ours has program memberships for kids that are cheaper). Ask if you can sit in on one of the classes then take him to watch. It will give you a feel for how things are run.

    Every swim instructor I’ve every spoken too HATES swimmies. I had a cool innertube/bathingsuit float that they don’t make anymore when they were babies and then this http://www.swimoutlet.com/product_p/1913.htm. the summer program recommends this for beginning swimmers. http://www.swimoutlet.com/product_p/19582.htm (no affiliation, just a vendor I’ve used before).

    I wouldn’t obsess about getting them lessons THIS summer. Buy a good float and teach him yourself this year.

    Good luck!
    Lee

    Good luck!
    Lee

  19. In my opinion swimming is a life skill – kind of like reading and writing. Now I may be biased because I swam competitively and was a lifeguard. Whether kids need actual lessons to learn that skill is another issue. I think that all depends on a variety of factors, such as the kid’s personality, family situation, available resources etc. From my lifeguarding experience, I did find that kids that took private one-on-one lessons learned how to swim faster and with better quality strokes. Well worth the money.

    I personally don’t have the money, so my kids take group lessons (they both started at 6 mos of age, and #3 will too). We have a backyard pool so I continue skill development there during the summer, and go for family swim at the recreation centre in the winter.

    In my lifeguarding days I rescued quite a large number of children who had never taken lessons and had no appreciation for how dangerous a pool and water are. They often jumped in after watching their friends who could swim, only to find out that copying their techniques is much easier said than done.

  20. We were wavering about putting Gavin in lessons (we can teach him ourselves, he’s doing fine, we never let him out of our sight) and then my dad had a party at his house while I was at work, and everyone assumed someone else was watching Gavin. He ended up in the middle of the pool for a few seconds until a friend who was in the pool realized what was going on and grabbed him. So we signed him up for lessons. Not Red Cross or YMCA, but a private group called Sharks and Minnows – they were the same price as the other two, but had many more classes available and more options for class times.

    Now, maybe 2 months later, the kid swims like a champ. Actually swims. Not floating, not “making it”, but actual swimming. Part of the lessons included dropping him into the pool and having him turn around and swim to the wall and then climb out. He can float on his stomach and back, he can swim underwater, pop up to breathe and continue swimming, he can jump in, he can kick off the walls and the bottom of the pool, he can make it to the edges and climb out, everything. If he were to fall into a pool now like he did that day, he’d be out of the pool in no time.

    My husband was completely adamant that Gavin did not need swimming lessons, it was going to be a waste of money, etc, but it was my husband’s idea to sign him up for the 3rd session of classes because of the progress he had made.

    And remember, LB and Gavin are what, a week apart? At this age, someone does have to be doing the lessons with him, so it’s Daddy and Gavin time right now, but next summer he’ll be in the pool with just the instructor while the work on different styles of swimming (as opposed to basic swimming and survival.

  21. They need to learn to swim and to be safe around water. You may or may not be the right person for that job. I was not, ergo my kids have had some swim lessons. Perhaps you could get them started with the basics and then move onto red cross as they advance?

    I think that like driving, swimming is a very hard thing to teach ones own child.

  22. I can tell you that I had swimming lessons at 4 and it made all the difference in the world. I can’t get enough of the water. My parents had a pool and so had the local YMCA instructor come to the house and give us private lessons – but either way (classes or private) I think it was extremely helpful NOT to have my parents trying to teach us. They were just way too invested and emotional about the whole thing. The instructor was young and enthusiastic about helping kids learn to love and properly respect the water (and we grew up in Florida, so this was important not just at the pool, but at the ocean). I can’t imagine how I would feel today if I hadn’t had swimming lessons.

    laura

  23. I think swim lessons are up to individual parents – we waited for formal lessons until our daughter was 2 – however we took swimming with us every chance we could in the short summer seasons of the midwest (cold, rain, very hot, thunderstorms etc). That said the formal lessons for 6mo – 36 mo involved us getting in the pool with her so it was a fun experience. Since she tends to listen to other people better than that Mom person, we signed her up for the next set without parents. She loves the classes and it kept her occupied especially during the winter. The classes we take are offered at the local university so that might be an option besides the Y also look for swim clubs that offer lessons. However, each kid is different so go with the flow if lessons do not work out for you

  24. You’re not a failure. There are lots of baby swim classes out there, but those are mostly just to feel comfortable. Some kids may learn to swim, others just won’t be afraid, and some of them are in the exact same boat as yours. Optional. (I live in CA, swim lesson heaven. My best mama friend taught swimming for years, my nephews are swim instructors now – they all agreed.) We had multiple options, beyond parks and rec, but even those limited the class size to 4 kids for 3yos. We’re at a private pool, and there are 3 kids in the class. My girl loooves her teachers right now, so she listens better and tries new things. Swim skills are not optional to me – it’s hard for me to fathom not being comfortable or at least competent in the water. (Not being judgemental – literally have a hard time imagining it. I’d be scared anytime I was near or over water.) I’d say try your kid in a class, see how he does.

  25. I’m late to this discussion, but I thought I would chime in about my experience growing up. I was more like LittleBrother – I took to the water like I fish. I’d be off with my swimmies in the deep end while my older brother clung to the wall in the shallow end, not wanting to do anything (in the pool, at least) on his own. My parents had a woman in the neighborhood who taught swimming come give us private lessons, so we didn’t have to take an actual class. (I’m not sure how we would have done with that.) In my experience, it was great – it was important to learn the basics and gain confidence, and it was nice to be able to do that without being in a class with 20 other kids. Of course, my parents were not pool people so much, so them teaching us themselves was not really an option (as it sounds like it is for you). My mom, though, still hates going underwater to this day, and often says she wishes she had taken lessons (or that she may still take them) just to get over that issue. (Although her swimming is fine.) I guess there are a lot of ways to go about familiarizing kids with the water, but the most important thing is probably just that you do it at all.

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