Family life on LA's Westside


Think and Swim: Swimming Lessons Save Kids Lives

Learning to swim is fun for kids, but more importantly, learning to swim can save a child’s life. 

Before my son was 18 months, he had already fallen into our backyard pool three times.  Each time I was within arm’s length of him and plucked him out within seconds, but each instance was alarming. 

The last accident, he dipped a bucket in the pool to fill it, and the weight pulled him into the water headfirst, I was standing beside him.  I reached down to pull him out, but he sank instead of bobbing up as I expected.  In an instant, I jumped in and grabbed him.  As I sat at the pool’s edge, gasping for air in my panic, holding my terrified coughing child across my lap, I shuddered to think what could have happened if I had not been right there. 

As if the event itself wasn’t frightening enough to brand itself on my memory forever, my Blackberry phone, which had been in my pocket, burned a rectangular patch on my leg when the wet battery shorted out.  It was my wakeup call.  My son needed to learn how to swim.

Proper Instruction is Key to Swim Safety

Lucky for us, we live near the Westside Jewish Community Center, home to the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy (, founded by a four-time Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg.  The academy hosts year-round learn-to-swim programs for children of all ages and adults, either one-on-one with an instructor or in a class.

The academy utilizes the SwimRight swim-float-swim technique as the foundation for learning to swim.  The method focuses on providing children with confidence and safety in and around the water. 

Choose the Type of Lesson that Suits Your Child

For infants and students under the age of three who require 100 percent supervision, the academy offers private lessons with one instructor per student.  The kids first learn to float on their backs.  As they advance, they are rewarded with stickers placed in swim books.  As they achieve certain milestones, they earn stickers to show they have graduated from splasher, to floater to kicker, and so on.

Another option for children under two years of age is lessons in which their parents get into the water with them to guide them through simple drills using songs and play to acclimate them to water and to teach them the basic survival back float.

More experienced students over three years of age who are able to follow directions can enter classes of up to four students per instructor.  After basic skills are mastered, students learn the four strokes of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.

Mission Accomplished:  Swim Confidence

After one year of lessons, my son now can dive into the water, paddle across our 25-foot pool and swim to the bottom in five feet of water to retrieve toys. If he ever gets tired, he rolls onto his back and floats, like second nature.  Though I still never let him swim out of reach, I have confidence, as does he, that he knows how to be safe in the water.

Suit Up for Swimming

To keep swimming enjoyable and exciting, instructors recommend suiting up children in in the proper swimming gear so that they stay warm, comfortable and enthused. 

FINIS ( a Northern California swim gear company founded by competitive water polo player John Mix and Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer Pablo Morales, offers quality child-sized swimwear and gear that meets the founder’s mission, “To motivate every person in the world to swim better, swim often, and train smarter.”

For the beginning swimmer, here are some basic items they may need, all available at FINIS.

  • ·         UPF 50+ snug polyester swim diapers ($9.99) which work better than disposables;
  • ·         a Swim Vest ($24.99) to aid with water confidence;
  • ·         leak-proof kid-sized Nitro or H2 Jr. Goggles (both $11.99) designed for small faces;
  • ·         adjustable zero-buoyancy Fishtail Fins Junior ($31.99) to aid with kicking without influencing the natural body position;
  • ·         fitted Jammer shorts ($31.99) for swimming and play;
  • ·         Swim Brief ($27.99) for wearing under one-piece rashies;
  • ·         and a Thermal Swim Shirt ($49.99) – just like the ones instructors at the swim academy wear —  to keep little ones warm so they will swim longer. 

For the mom who gets in the water with kids but doesn’t want to worry about clinging kids tugging off her bikini, FINIS’s popular women’s Skinback suit ($49.99) looks good, fits snugly but comfortably and is made from Aqua Tuff material that resists fading in chlorine.

Once a child has the knowledge, skills and gear to feel safe and confident in the water, the swim experience is more relaxed for the child and parents.  Children can learn to swim as infants – in fact the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy has taught students as young as three weeks old.  The earlier children get in the water the easier it is for them to learn to swim and begin a life-long activity that the family can enjoy together for fitness and fun.