Why We Teach in Shallow Water

FEB 21 2023

Being able to swim in all depths of water is an important part of developing water confidence, and entering deep water is a milestone for novice swimmers. However, deep water swimming comes with unique challenges, and many new swimmers are nervous to try it.

For a variety of reasons, Kingswim teaches our younger swim students to swim in shallow water before they progress to deep water. In this article, we’ll outline why, and also look at how to know when your child is ready to approach swimming in deep water.

Shallow vs deep water

Here are six reasons why we teach in shallow water.

1. Shallow water enables easy-accessibility for guardians

When a young child attends swimming lessons at Kingswim, guardians are ever-present to help support them as they learn their new water skills. It’s important to always be within arm’s reach of a child in water, no matter the depth, to ensure they are safe.

Doing this in shallow water is much easier, as it enables sure-footing and less physical effort. It allows parents and guardians to focus on the child and provide support, without getting exhausted. Imagine doing the same in deep water—supporting a child whilst treading water yourself would be exhausting.

In addition, some parents aren’t confident in deep water, hence prefer the shallow end. (If you’re one of those parents wanting to learn to swim from scratch, or improve confidence and swim technique, don’t forget Kingswim runs Adult Swimming Lessons.)

2.  Shallow water is less frightening for kids

It’s not just children who may have a fear of swimming in deep water. When you can’t touch the bottom of the pool you have to rely on your ability to swim, and for a newbie, this can cause anxiety or fear. Being in control of their own safety is important to a frightened child.

There are those who believe ‘jumping in the deep end’ is the best method to get kids confident in deep water fast. However, at Kingswim we have found through training and experience if a child is in a situation where they feel scared, they may be distracted. This anxiousness can cause kids to close up, making it difficult for them to listen, take instruction, and learn new skills.

We also know entering deep water before you’re ready can lead to long-term fear that’s hard to overcome. So, we endorse a more progressive approach, that lets kids take those brave steps into deeper water once they feel ready.

In saying that, some kids will be scared even in shallow water, however the fear tends to be less extreme, as they know they’re closer to reaching the bottom of the pool, where they can be in control of their actions.

It’s also worth noting that some kids have no fear of water, and are prepared to jump right in before they have the required skills to stay afloat. Again, this is another reason why learning in shallow water is preferable, as these kids need to spend the time working on their skills in a safer* zone before they venture into more challenging territory.

(*Whether shallow or deep, water poses risks for kids. Children need constant active supervision by an adult, and that adult should always be within arm’s reach of the child.)

3.  Shallow water allows for experimentation

Children with a fear of deep water are much less likely to try new skills and tricks, and experiment. Being able to stand in shallow water enables kids to be in control of their actions. If they are in control it builds their confidence quickly and encourages them to attempt some of the basic skills which are so very important for learning to swim.

Shallow pools allow for more experimentation, and over time, kids will develop the confidence they need to venture a little further towards the deep end.

4.  Shallow water enables good swimming practice

The depth of water should be appropriate to the ability level of the swimmer. Shallow water provides an environment that is comfortable, enjoyable and optimal for learning.

5. Shallow water reduces the need for float aids

It’s more likely children learning to swim in deep water will need to use flotation aids, (like ‘muscles’ or ‘bubbles’, in the case of Kingswim lessons). Whilst these are useful in helping a child keep their face above water, they can be a hindrance to developing a swimmer’s skills. They may hinder arm movements, or allow the swimmer to maintain a vertical position in the water, which is contrary to the horizontal position required for swimming.

Flotation aids may not give your child a sense of what’s involved in keeping afloat. When worn on a regular basis, they could give your child a false sense of security around water, and they may lose their natural wariness of its dangers. Parents also must not assume that their kids are safe in the water simply because they are wearing flotation aids.

Buoyancy aids add some peace of mind to families when enjoying time at the pool with their kids. However, they are something that are used sparingly in lessons at Kingswim.

The advantage of learning in shallow water is your child will have plenty of support from either you as their guardian, or if they are tall enough, the bottom of the pool. They can have added buoyancy by using a kickboard to gain certain skills, but they don’t always need to wear float aids attached to their body.

How to know when your child is ready to progress to deeper water

When your child is confident with the swimming skills they’ve learned in shallow water, there comes a time when they will move to the deep end. It’s essential they know how to draw on their skills to stay afloat in deep water. On top of that, some skills are difficult, or impossible to cover in shallow water, such as diving, lane turns and lap swimming. So naturally your child will need to progress to deep water before they can develop as a swimmer.

How do you know when they are ready? You’ll most likely observe your child moving a little further towards the deep end, and experimenting with not being able to touch the pool floor. There’s really no need to encourage your child to jump in the deep end, as once they feel comfortable and confident, they’ll just do it themselves, (under your direct supervision of course).

In general, we don’t introduce swimming in deeper water until children reach the Competent Level of our Learn to Swim program, although this can differ depending on the child, and on the Kingswim centre you attend. We’re always here to support your child if they have a strong fear of deep water swimming, so chat to our team about it if there are any concerns.

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