Swim Lessons: When Is It Too Soon?


Three years old. There. Blog over. Just kidding. Kind of.

Being the dutiful mom that I am, I decided to enroll my 3-year-old daughter in swim lessons this summer. It’s important to know how to swim, right? And that’s what you do during the summer, right? Wrong.

I remember swim lessons growing up. I grew up in a very small town so my lessons were in some neighbor’s backyard pool. I now realize I was probably quite a bit older than 3 if I remember it as well as I do. But I felt like it’s probably never too early to learn how to swim. I can assure you, for us, 3 is too early.

I should preface this by saying my daughter is a little shy at times. For this reason, I thought it made sense to do semi-private lessons with a 4-year-old neighbor boy who is a good friend of hers. She tends to do better with a friend along for the fun. So we set out both very excited. She had her new Frozen swimsuit on, I had her 10-month sister in tow with Puffs at the ready to keep her busy. I even told my 3-year-old I would get her a Mermaid Barbie if she did the lesson. I am so not above bribery, really on a daily basis, for everything from swim lessons to eating lunch to not shoving her sister down.

We sat on the bleachers while waiting for the swim instructor. I told my daughter the instructor was a Disney Princess to hopefully entice her into the water. The instructor arrived and called out my daughter and her friend’s names. This is where things started to go awry.

My daughter wanted no part of going up to the pool without me. So I passed the baby off to the neighbor boy’s mom and went poolside. That’s when the tears started. Much of the first lesson involved her sitting next to me next to the pool. I finally convinced her to get her feet in the water. We eventually basically forced her into the pool to hang onto the “marshmallow stick.” That probably wasn’t the best decision because she sobbed while the instructor pulled her around.

ALL the parents were eyeing us… most with understanding looks, some with complete what the heck looks. And then the 10-month old decided to lose it. So here I have two girls, both sobbing, no one swimming. I bailed. I’m still not sure if it was the right thing but we totally loaded up into the minivan and got the hell out of Dodge.

So, because I’m a sucker for punishment, and because I am trying to raise girls who don’t think it is OK to quit, we went back to two more lessons. They both went the same as the first, which was not good. Finally, during the third lesson, I realized that I was basically paying a lot of money to watch my kid cry and possibly develop a fear of the water which she loved before the dreaded lessons.

We bailed for the final time, and I told the instructor we wouldn’t be there for the last lesson.  gain, I’m still not sure if it was right to literally throw in the towel but we’ve been to the pool several times since, and she is happy as a lark.

Does she know how to swim? Not yet. We WILL try lessons again. But, in my opinion, being 3 is a time of transition and major changes and swim lessons may have been more enticing for ME than for HER.

It is important to know your child and know what they can tolerate. I think I may have been pushing her too fast to do something she wasn’t quite ready for. So instead of trying to keep up with every other 3-year-old I know, I learned a lesson that I need to pay more attention to my child and what she can and cannot tolerate at this time. So for any other moms on the fence out there about swim lessons, do yourself a favor and wait or, at the very least, have alcohol ready when you get home.

Hey! My name is Julie and I use too many exclamation points! My husband Grady and I are attempting to raise two wild women, Mia and Reese. We live in Shawnee where our faux bulldog Marge rules the roost. My hobbies include driveway drinking, going to parks and desperately trying to have date nights. My likes include the Jayhawks, coffee, craft beer and ChapStick. My dislikes include samesiders (people who sit on the same side of the booth when no one is on the other side), jerks and grocery shopping.


  1. You are a great Mom, Julie! And it sounds like you made the right call for little Miss. It’s important as Moms to support each other and know that all kids do things at their own time… and that might not be when the majority does it. That’s ok. We haven’t gone wrong as parents, we are all learning this Mom thing as we go. Hopefully next summer will be better!

  2. My two boys are grown and gone from home. My youngest has a three year old of his own. I have to say that we live in Florida where there is water of some kind everywhere. When I was pregnant with my oldest, a friend of our family lost their 14 year old son at the beach. He drowned in front of his whole family. No one knew how to swim. Shortly after my oldest was born another family friend lost their 2 year old in a creek behind there house. With both of those lost children on my heart, I enrolled my son in swim lessons at 6 months. It was the best thing I have ever done as a parent. They have no fear at that age. By the time he was a year old and walking he could swim like a fish. I am not saying there was no tears, there was. But was it worth it? Yes and I did it with the second son as well. All children should know how to swim.

  3. This. Was. Us. Including the sibling in tow. We went back and I made her finish our scheduled lessons. She only half way tried meaning she got in the water without crying but refused to do anything else. She loves the water and because of that I do have a fear of either kid drowning, but I know I wasn’t in swim lessons at 3. We will keep trying though as we live in Florida and there are pools and water everywhere.

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