My daughters completed survival swim lessons a few months ago. At 3 and 5 years old, they went from being afraid to go underwater to excitedly jumping in the water. And most important – they know how to float if they should fall in, and can even swim to the side of the pool and climb out safely. They learned survival skills that are essential for babies and young children. I had wanted to sign my kids up for ISR (Infant swimming resource) lessons since they were toddlers. But life and a pandemic got in the way. Traditional swim lessons can take years to get to a decent enough skill level to actually swim. These one-on-one lessons are a little intense, but so worth it. The learning progress was intense but fast! I want to share our experience with self-rescue swim lessons and whether or not I would recommend them.


Our Experience with Self Rescue Survival Swim Lessons


The first day was a little rough. There were a lot of tears, but it still felt gentle. Both girls didn’t want to go underwater, and our instructor eased them in slowly. I’ve heard the horror stories – children screaming, crying, and being “thrown” into the water. And while there were tears, nothing was forced, and it was definitely not a traumatic experience. Even when there were tears, they always felt safe and secure, and ended each lesson happy. Our instructor took a gentle approach, never just throwing my children in, and I always felt good about the process. 

Maybe this is the difference between ISR lessons and Watch Me Wwim. I can’t speak to other programs but would never have been ok with my children feeling unsafe. This program is based in IL, FL, PA, and MA, so if you are not in one of those states, I would do some research on survival swim lessons.


This is not the only way to learn to swim

Before I dive in (no pun intended, I swear), this is not the only way to teach your child to swim. The lessons are inconvenient if you have a traditional job and not as affordable as group swim lessons. This would have felt impossible if I worked in an office and if my husband wasn’t as flexible as he is. There’s no way we would have been able to get our kids to swim lessons every afternoon for 6 weeks. 

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death. This is not fear mongering – it’s a fact. Learning to swim is a life-saving skill that every child should have, and it should be accessible to everyone . Enrolling your child in swim lessons, keeping a close eye when you’re in the water, and having water safety rules is important. I want to share our experience because most people asked if my children were thrown into the pool and if it felt traumatic, and that was not the case. 


Where can I enroll my child for survival swim lesson? 

We ended up taking lessons through Watch Me Swim, and the real reason was that the times for ISR near us did not work with our schedule. I would recommend looking into survival lessons near you – look at reviews and find the survival swim program that makes the most sense for your family.


How old does my child need to be for survival swim? 

These lessons are for children of all ages. Babies 6-12 months learn to roll back to a float position and to swim independently.  This helps means they can float on their back until they can be rescued. I’ve heard the best age is around 1 as toddlers aren’t usually as afraid as older children. In my experience, my 5 year old seemed very eager and ready, and ended up catching on quite quickly. She loved it. My 3 year-old definitely struggled but still enjoyed it and felt “so proud” after every class. 

Children 12 months and older all do the same course, learning to roll back to a float and swimming independently. My girls swam with their head down for a very short distance, then floated on their back to breathe and rest. The goal is to do this until they get to the steps or side of the pool or to shore and are able to swim to safety. 


How long does it take?

These lessons are a time commitment. Your child will have one 10 minute lesson 5 days a week (Monday – Friday) for about 4-6 weeks. These private lessons are a commitment. We paid $120 / week per child, which is a lot of money over the course of a month or longer. My 5 year-old took about 4 weeks to complete lessons and my 3 year-old needed another two weeks. It felt like a lot going every single day, but it was a matter of weeks before my kids could swim to float.


What was the process like?

At first, our instructor got my girls comfortable in the water. Getting them to go under, just for a second in her arms. This was harder for my younger daughter. Our instructor went back to that and started getting her safe and comfortable in a floating position. I felt like she really took a child-centered approach, not forcing her to do things that felt too hard for her. Building that trust gave her a strong foundation, and she was eventually able to go back to the things that felt too scary. The first week was incredible for my 5 year-old who was able to float really well by the end of the week. 


An important thing to remember. 

NIt’s important to discuss water safety and to have water safety rules in place with your kids. It’s also important not to have a false sense of security after these classes. My children know they are not allowed in the water (pool or bath) without an adult present. My 5 year-old is a confident swimmer, but she still needs to be watched. We were asked not to rely on floatation devices (like a puddle jumper or floaties) now that they have done this program. We will have maintenance lessons every quarter and I plan on getting my kids in regular swim lessons to continue their skills. This was more about water safety techniques and less about swimming. We haven’t done any maintenance classes so I can’t speak to those, but will update this post once we do. 

I will continue to supervise my children and to teach them about water safety. We talk about this any time we are around water and any time they’re in the bath. They know to ask for permission to get in the water, and that they have to confirm that an adult is watching them. 


Do I recommend survival swim classes?

Yes, absolutely. I am so glad we did this! It didn’t feel possible for the longest time with the pandemic and some medical issues, but once we were able, we signed up. It was an wonderful experience. My 8 month-old son is going to start classes in the coming months. And my older children will take their first refresher course this spring. My children learned critical safety skills around water and feel less anxious knowing they have these skills.