Lane Wineski, director of the 92nd Street Y Aquatics program, agrees. "Children's natural curiosity makes it easier to master the basics," he says. "When choosing a program, parents should look for a nationally certified one such as the American Red Cross or the YMCA."
Barrett also recommends that parents look for small class sizes. Each teacher should work with four or fewer children. Teachers should be experienced as teachers and swimmers, as well as be passionate about teaching.
Additionally, parents should make sure that the pool the class is held in is kept at a comfortable temperature for the swimmers. At Imagine Swimming, the pools for small swimmers are kept in the mid- to high-80s.
During the child's first swim lessons, parents should be sure to keep their emotions under control. If children are enrolled in a parent-and-child program, the adult who takes the child to class should be comfortable in chest-deep water. Participating parents should also speak to the instructor; most, even if they don't work with adult students directly, know how to adjust the activities to make the experiences as productive and enjoyable as possible, Wineski says.
"If parents are afraid and nervous, their children will pick up on it," Barrett said. "Once parents are no longer required in the water, they should stay within their child's range of site, but they should bring a book to read. Parents who draw too much attention to themselves can be distracting."