Dive Into Free Swim Lessons at the YMCA

Free Swimming Lessons
YMCAs throughout the country are offering free swim lessons as part of their Safety Around Water program. Photo courtesy of the YMCA

Summer and swim lessons: They go hand-in-hand.

As soon as school is out, kids are clamoring to get in the water for fun, exercise and a break from the heat.

But learning to swim is also a valuable life skill.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an average of 10 people die from drowning every day, two of them being children under age 15. The National Safety Council reports drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children.

Despite the stats, not all parents can afford to pay $40 a lesson (give or take) for their child to learn to swim.

“Seventy-nine percent of children in families with household incomes less than $50,000 have little to no swim ability,” said Lindsay Mondick, senior manager of aquatics at YMCA of the USA.

Since it typically takes several lessons for a kid to truly master the skill, swim lessons could end up costing parents several hundred dollars per child.

“As a penny-pinching mom myself, I know swimming lessons are sometimes one of those things that gets left off the list,” Mondick said. “But in my opinion, it’s the only recreational program that also has the ability to be a life-saving program.”

To help make swimming and water safety lessons more accessible, the national YMCA is providing funding for 33,000 children to participate in Safety Around Water programs this year at no cost.

Safety Around Water is a YMCA program that teaches children important water safety skills and basic swimming instruction. Approximately 1,200 YMCA branches across the nation are offering the program, Mondick said.

Throughout a series of sessions (typically eight 40-minute lessons), instructors teach children how to feel confident in the water and maneuvers they can use if they unexpectedly find themselves submerged, like treading water, turning to float on their backs and propelling themselves from the bottom of a pool to the surface.

Kids will also learn basic swimming skills and important safety information, like what to do if they see someone in the water who needs help. The classes are appropriate for beginning swimmers generally ages 3 through 12.

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In addition to the money from the national YMCA, Mondick said many local branches do their own fundraising and partner with community supporters to run the program at free or reduced costs.

Some locations only offer the free lessons to children living under a certain income level or from a certain zip code or school district. Registration might be capped, and dates for lessons vary.

Check your local YMCA branch to find out if it offers this program for free in your area and for further details.

The YMCA also offers paid swimming instruction for children that goes beyond basic survival skills. Costs vary by location, but you may find the YMCA’s prices are lower than enrolling in a for-profit swim school or hiring a private instructor.

Mondick said the YMCA provides swimming lessons to an average of 1 million kids each year. She said many local branches offer scholarships or financial assistance to make its programs affordable for low-income families.

For other options for kids’ swim lessons at affordable rates, check your city- or county-owned pools.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.