20 answers

5 Yr. Old Failing at Swim Lessons

My daughter is 5. She just started swim lessons at our local rec center and she is doing terrible. Her class is 25 mins. long and at best she stays in (without crying, for 10 mins.) I tried talking to her teacher and said what can we do?? She suggested that I go somewhere that she cant see me... so I tried that and it didn't work. Today I took her back and she didn't even want to get in the pool. So I threw her in the water (not to be mean, but to get her in and get her going). The teacher held onto her and tried to get her adjusted but she wouldn't stop crying.

The problem is -- she is great swimming at home with her water wings. She has no reservations when she has her water wings. I explained to her that the swim lessons will show her how to swim without them. I will give her a lot of credit because she has come a long way with water in general. A year ago she would go crazy if water hit her face. Like I said before, she has no reservations in the water as long as she has her water wings.

Tomorrow I am going to get in the water with her and see what happens. I am looking for suggestions and advice on what to do to MOTIVATE HER AND TEACH HER HOW TO SWIM. I am not open to someone telling me that 'now isn't the time', 'wait until next summer', etc. She is capable & and has shown me that she is ready to learn.... its just a matter of getting her to the next level. THANKS!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Today was the last day of the class. She mastered every task and has been promoted to the next swim class.

Featured Answers

Try SwimLabs they are wonderful. The are much smaller classes and the instructors are very nice and they really work with the kids. They are on Countyline and Holly The number is ###-###-####. Good Luck

Hi T.,

I'm going through a similar experience with my two girls who are 3 & 5. We have done group lessons since they were babies and every summer we start over. My girls are having anxiety over getting their faces wet and still haven't mastered going under water without screeming their heads off. I recently tried teaching them myself which made things worse.

Just this week I put them in semi-private lessons at the rec center. It seems to be helping because my 5 year old is voluntarily putting her face in the water.

If you can afford private lessons, I would recommend that with consecutive days and I would not stay and watch.

I also found a program that I would do if we could afford it. This program was for 6 weeks, 5 days a week, 10 minutes a session (private) with the water temp in the high 80's. I believe it costs $90 per week and $150 to register. If you're interested I can forward you the info.

Best of luck to you and me both.


More Answers

Have you tried putting on the water wings in a deflated state? Maybe that would help her transition.

Can she stand up in the pool? That might help her feel more secure if you could find one that is shallow enough that she can touch the bottom. You might try doing "non-swimming" things at the shallow end -- throwing a ball back and forth, picking up pennies with your feet, holding on to the edge and kicking your feet, and so forth -- to help her gain confidence and not be afraid of the water.

Also, at five, she should be old enough to articulate what scares her and/or what might help her get over her fear. I think having you in the water with her might help her not be so scared as well.

Best wishes,


One thing that I have learned is that you can not make a child do anything. If she doesn't want to do it she won't. All you can do is encourge her as much as possible. It sounds like she is doing alot of this to make you feel bad. Try to be patient.

Okay first of all, having taught children to swim for years...throwing her in was not the ideal scenario. She's in unfamiliar territory and the crying is a result of not being able to control her own situation. Then there is the terror of being without her water wings - they seem great, but they are a total mistake!

You are going to have to take it slow with her. And I would strongly suggest even at 5, having a discussion with her before her lesson giving her the opportunity to express her feelings, then offering reassurance and even a reward FOLLOWING the lesson if she meets your agreed upon objectives.

Remember…you want her water safe, but not at the expense of hating the water for the rest of her life. And NEVER revert back to the water wings!!!

Congratulations on finding a way to accomplish what you needed to.

Maybe you could take her to the rec center earlier in the day during an "open swim" time. Then she'll have plenty of time to take it at her own pace, not feel rushed and be with her mom. I would think that by then she would have become more comfortable with her surroundings and able to participate in class.

This is not uncommon for Rec. Center Swim Lessons.
I used to offer private swim lessons in my childcare
until my instructor moved.
It may not have anything to do with your daughter.

I recommend a certain swim school to my childcare clients.
I can not think of the name at the moment and I am not home.
I have been a caregiver for children for 32 years.
They are more pricey, but I spent the day in the pool last week with a 3 yr old who can swim the pool length.
The parents took her where I suggested.

If you are interested I can get the info.
Just reply to my response.

P. Ann
(click on about me to connect with me)

your five year old will learn when she sees all her little friends doing it. My daughter also took lessens around the same age. She swam like a rock and drank hald the pool water. I decided not to push the lessons just as long as she was exposed. She is now nine and swims like a fish not from swimming lessons but from hanging out with her friends that liked to swim. My theory has always been.. They don't have to be great at what they do, but they should at least be exposed to various activities. Remember ever child loves a cheerleader.

She is 5 years old- She is fine to keep using the waterwings. If she was 12 and still using them that would be a concern. This is a comfort for her, don't make swimming a punishment- let her be!!! take her out of the class and let her know that when she is ready that is great.

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