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Children’s Activities


First I want to wish any Christians a Happy Easter and any Jews a Happy Passover! I’ve always tried to be open-minded about different religious beliefs and although my family is Christian, our girls attend the Jewish Community Center for preschool and when they are old enough I hope to teach them about many of the world’s different religions. That issue aside, I do want to acknowledge these two religious holidays that have been prominent in the past couple days (and, of course, Passover continues throughout this week as well).

The real reason I bring up these holidays is because this is the first year that we did our own Easter celebration at our house for the girls. Last year was the first time it was really celebrated, but we had gone to a community egg hunt (same one that I wrote about this year), and we didn’t do any celebrations at home because we figured the girls were still a little too young to really “get” it.

But they’re growing so fast, learning so much, and are really starting to enjoy and appreciate these types of traditions.

So in addition to attending the neighborhood egg hunt, we had our own mini version at home. We had baskets with eggs and candy (the baskets and eggs were saved from last year, so I just had to buy some new candy and we didn’t give them much – it was more about finding eggs than eating candy), dyed easter eggs (with homemade dye using food coloring; much cheaper than the kits they sell since I already had the food coloring on hand), and a big ham dinner. All-in-all, the holiday was still pretty cheap since we didn’t go overboard with lots of gifts inside the baskets and/or excessive amounts of candy.

But even so, the holiday has given me pause as I think about the coming months (and years, even). To this point, our girls have never been enrolled in any type of recurring activity. I had lots of mom friends that went regularly to MyGym when they had babies, whose same-aged children now go to ballet, gymnastics, or soccer, and basically everyone I know has enrolled their kids in swim lessons (seriously every summer since infancy).

Us? Crickets over here. We’ve done nothing.

And, in the past, I’ve been totally okay with it! We have many years ahead of us to do these types of activities. To a large extent I still feel like it would be money wasted since the girls are still a bit young to really get a whole lot out of dance or gymnastics. I realize the importance of exposing them to different things, but I guess I just don’t feel a huge urgency in it just yet since we’re so focused on debt-reduction.

But I say that in one breath and in the very next I realize just how much they’re developing in all aspects lately (socially, physically, cognitively, with motor skills, etc. etc. etc.) It makes me wonder….is our cheapness hurting them by keeping them from these different types of experiences?

Still, I think no. They’ll be three this summer. I think we can wait one more year until we really start introducing different sports/activities to them. Four seems like a perfectly sound age. That is….for all extra-curricular activities. But one activity feels different to me:  swimming.

Sure, swimming is an extra-curricular. No doubt about it. But we also have access to a FREE swimming pool this summer. I rarely used it last year because I was scared to go by myself with both kids (since hubs generally works during the day), but wouldn’t it be great if I could take the kids without being fearful? If they knew some basic water safety skills and could be safe around water?

I know kids their age don’t learn how to swim a perfect freestyle, breast, and butterfly, but they learn water safety skills like not running, not jumping in until an adult is present, how to hold their breath under water, and how to safely grab the side of the pool when they jump in. They learn the basics of swimming.

But then there’s the conundrum. Swim lessons are expensive. Expensive times two (since we have twins). Is it worth it?

What do you think?

Should I try to enroll the girls in swim lessons? Should I give it another year? Should I try to teach them myself (for free….though it could be difficult since I’m outnumbered 2-to-1). I’ve done a little research on price (not quality; I still need to ask around regarding quality), but on the very cheapest end I can find swim lessons for $15/each per 30-minute session. Though the range is up through about $40/each per 30-minute session. The number of classes per week and sessions in the class vary from place to place. But no matter how you look at it, it’s a lot more money spent essentially on “entertainment” than we’re used to (our entertainment budget is typically below $10 per month!)

I’d love to hear some of your opinions on this!

When did you start your children in different activities? How much is reasonable to pay when we’re working on debt reduction? Do you think all activities should be held off for now, or is there a safety-reason why it might we worthwhile to do swim lessons? Do I try to do them myself or go to a professional? How much would you spend?

So many questions! Give me your thoughts!



  • Reply Theresa |

    NO! Don’t enroll them. At your girls age the best thing for them to do it enjoy the water. Play sing songs, and have fun. You don’t need lessons for that. Make time to take them individually or have your husband come along. 2 year olds do not need swim lessons.

    We paid for lessons at age 20 months and I paid $50 (relatively cheap) to have someone watch me play with my child. I was kinda pissed. I knew how to play with my child in the water.

    Since I have learned that playing at this age in the water is the best thing for them. And that is how it is done around here at lessons. So we hold off until age 4.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Wow! I would be upset, too! I do have to say that my kids are actually close to being 3 (they turn 3 this summer). I know last year they were definitely too young for lessons (in my opinion), but my understanding is that they actually learn more at this age than simple play in the water. The classes actually don’t even have the parent getting in the water with them at all – it’s just the kids and instructor. They’re supposed to learn floating, getting to the side of the pool, kicks, and simple strokes (more like a doggy paddle at this age, but the beginnings of freestyle).

  • Reply tami |

    Youtube has quite a few videos on children’s swimming lessons and water safety classes. I’d look at a few those and then ask what is covered in classes locally. If might be you could do it yourself or with your husband at your pool. Or you could ask to observe the classes at the local Y. Swim classes can be fun, but I don’t think they are a must until the kids are school age. That said, some kids really don’t get a lot of benefit until they are 6 or so.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a great idea! I’ve actually googled some articles about teaching your kids to swim (the DIY approach), but haven’t watched any videos. I’ll check out some YouTube videos when I have some time!

  • Reply SCMelvin |

    Ashley, I would not enroll them in a group swimming lesson. I did this last year when my grandson was 3 and it was too chaotic. One instructor, 10 children and there was really no time for any one-on-one if a child was fearful as the instructor had 9 other children to teach.

    I tried an individual instructor and that didn’t work out either. The indoor pool at the YMCA where the lessons are held is just so LOUD and echo-y (is that a word) and I think the entire experience overwhelmed him.

    What worked best for us was just not worrying about taking organized swimming lessons. I made sure that he always wore a flotation vest that would allow him to be upright (not flipped onto his back like a helpless turtle) whenever he was in deep water (the three foot end of our pool). Actually now that I think of it, he wore a vest plus he used a ring because most of the vests that I found flipped him onto his back and he couldn’t get upright or onto his stomach and that made him panic.

    The swim center had foam belts that strapped snugly around his waist and those were wonderful, but they are very hard to find. I googled and I called every swim shop plus every boat shop for miles … apparently because they are not true lifesaving devices, most places don’t sell them anymore for small children due to liability. It is too bad because the belts hold the children upright in the water, as if they are standing, and they are able to lean forward to “swim” and lean back to “float” but they still feel secure. My grandson could even jump in from one of the steps and the belt allowed him to go a little bit under but then popped him right back up, in an upright position. The belts I am talking about are sometimes known as water-skiing belts. They have to fit really snugly and the smallest one I could find last year, a child’s extra-small, was a bit too loose for my grandson.

    I have seen the photos of your girls and they appear to be extremely petite so you may not be able to find these belts for them. My grandson is very large for his age; by the end of last summer he could stand in the 3 foot end with his feet flat on the floor and by tilting his head back slightly, he could keep his face out of the water. He is 3 inches taller (!) this year, so I anticipate even more confidence in the water.

    So … the extra-long post just to say that the inexpensive inflatable rings work very well in allowing the children to stand up; paired with a vest I felt that my grandson was fairly safe (not that I EVER left him alone in the pool, but I did let him “float away” an arm’s length or two).

    Another idea … the lifeguards at the swimming pool might be open to some private “lessons” with you and your girls.

    And finally, we had a huge breakthrough with our grandson’s confidence when we went to a lake to swim. He could walk into the water and it got deeper gradually as opposed to a pool where it is three feet deep and over his head immediately. He experimented with his vest and was delighted that he could lie down in 24 inches (or so) of water and “float” all by himself.

    Good luck and have fun!


    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful post and helpful suggestions! You’re right that my girls are very petite, but I can still look around for the belt you mentioned….maybe find something online, we’ll see.

  • Reply Joe |

    Our kids have gone to swim class since they were 18 months or so, but I would strongly agree that they didn’t get much out of it until they were around 4. The progression at that point was very rapid – my son went from dog-paddling with a float to swimming the length of the pool without any assistance in less than 12 months ( and we don’t swim year round here in the Northeast).

    Before that, my suggestion would be to get a couple of those devices with 4 floaty cushions strapped together. Let the kids swim with you with 4 cushions, and then start removing them 1 at a time as they get comfortable. Once they are down to 1-2 cushions is probably a good time to think about lessons.

    The other helpful thing was goggles- my daughter refused to put her face anywhere near the water for years and then became fearless within 3 weeks after agreeing to wear them for the first time.

    The floaty things and kids goggles cost about $10 each new from Amazon if I recall correctly. You may find them cheaper locally or used! Either way, definitely cheap compared to full-blown swim lessons from the get-go.

  • Reply Walnut |

    How often do you and the girls go to the pool right now? Does the pool have a dedicated small child pool? It seems like you can work with the girls on some fundamentals during regular pool play time.

    Swim lessons began around age 6 at our house.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Last summer we rarely went (maybe 2-3 times total), but I’d really like to start going more, especially since its free and its SO HOT in Tucson! Our pool does have a dedicated small child pool. Last year I was fearful to go alone (even with the small child pool, it just felt too risky), but if we get some floatation devices like others have mentioned, coupled with the fact that the girls are bigger, stronger, and a little more capable this year, I may try to take them more often and work with them myself in the small child pool to learn some of the basics (like holding breath, blowing bubbles, kicking, etc.)

  • Reply SCMelvin |

    I have a question, not really related to this post. It used to be that when I made comments on this site, my post showed up right away. Now it says “Awaiting Moderation”. I don’t have a problem with that per se, but I am wondering if I did something wrong previously that I am not aware of … I don’t think so, but who knows? Are all comments moderated first before they post to the site?


    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi SCM!
      No, not all comments are moderated first. Comments are only moderated if they are flagged (by some computer algorithm…not any individual) as potentially being spam. Then we, as the bloggers, have the opportunity to approve the comment (if its legit) or delete the comment (if its truly spam). Yours clearly isn’t spam so I don’t know why it was flagged (and I have no control over which comments are flagged and which aren’t). Sorry about the inconvenience!

  • Reply Jen From Boston |

    I took swimming lessons when I was 5 or 6, but before that I would go to the beach with my family. I still can’t do the freestyle, though. However, a friend of mine who teaches swimming to kids told me the most important thing is feeling comfortable in water. She had students who could do the freestyle and all the strokes, but they would still sink like a rock because they were scared of the water. So maybe a few trips to the kiddie pool would be good for now, and then later enroll them in swimming lessons.

    As for all the other activities, personally I think today’s kids are overprogrammed. There’s a lot to be said for just playing on your own and developing your own imagination! Unless they have a genuine interest in something I wouldn’t worry about getting them into programs. The nice thing about twins is they have each other to play with 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      This comment: “As for all the other activities, personally I think today’s kids are overprogrammed. There’s a lot to be said for just playing on your own and developing your own imagination!” <<< YES YES YES!!!! You win comment of the day, friend!

  • Reply Gail |

    You really have to find the ‘right’ instructor. My son did a lot of singing in the pool with me holding on to him. Really he just got use to water. Waste of time and money. At 18 months, he was the age that the local, and the one everyone talked about, swim teacher around would take him. Wearing the float blocks that go around your body, (one in front, two in back at that time) he jumped off the diving board on his second lesson. Scared me to death… but he came floating up asking if he could do it again. She was a no nonsense teacher. Some kids can handle that at that age, and some can’t. You know your girls. There was no singing. 🙂
    Definitely a lot of putting their face in the water to get use to it. Face in… blow bubbles. And because they have the floats on… it’s a lot of them learning how to ‘run’ in the water. Gets their legs moving. Since their arms are free (don’t use water wings… it doesn’t help them) they can learn how to dog paddle. They for sure aren’t swimming, but they are getting use to the water. You don’t have to hold onto them constantly, an arms lengths is good. They get a lot of confidence and they love being independent showing you what they can do.

  • Reply Hope |

    I was in accord with most people here until my 2 year old son started doing flips off the side of the pool with no one there to catch him…I then immediately started looking for swimming lessons. (I guess I should have seen gymnastics or diving in his future then, but really it just freaked me out!)
    So while I agree with most that every day “swim lessons” may not be the way to go, I HIGHLY recommend a program called Swim America. If you can find a program around, go. There are not so long to take the “fun” out of water, but structured enough that you can really see the skills they learn.
    We did two sessions of Swim America here locally and then mine have never been to lessons again. (My kids were 3 and 4 when we did these lessons.) They love the water and I am very comfortable with them being in it supervised by life guards.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the tip! I’ve never heard of Swim America but I’ll check it out. I would totally freak if they tried to jump in alone and that type of thing is my big fear – and also the main reason why I see swim lessons as more of a safety thing and less of an extracurricular “just-for-fun” type thing.

    • Reply Meg |

      Yes. I got swim lessons pretty early (around 2 years) because I would jump off the dock at my grandparents place into the river. And then one of my parents had to come to the lessons with me because I kept jumping into the deep end.

  • Reply Kristen |

    I personally think it depends on their temperament. My son doesn’t mind water in his face, etc. but was/is terrified of pools. We did the parent and me class last year and he spent the whole time clutching me tightly. I wanted him to see other kids having fun in the pool… Not sure if it was worth it. This year, they said I should do the parent and me class again instead of moving him up to the 3 year old class where there aren’t any parents. He just isn’t ready yet.
    If your girls are comfortable around the water, I would just go to a couple open swims (with another adult). Until they can swim (with or without puddle jumpers), I would make sure to have one on one supervision. The class would be an excepton, but you pay money for the exception. I do think that if you wait to take them swimming until they are older it will be infinitely harder. Good luck… We are wrestling with this whole extra curricular thing too right now!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the tips! It’s a really good idea to take them a few times and see how comfortable they are and how they do before deciding whether the commitment (and monetary investment) is worthwhile!

  • Reply SAK |

    I think you get some recommendations on quality at a price point that is affordable and take them to one lesson and see how they do. It may be too much for them or they may love it (or 1 each) and then decide. But please – always have them in flotation devices around the pool (or at friends’ places with pools). I live in Phoenix and the horror stories are starting about kids drowning in pools.

  • Reply Jackie |

    I never took my son to swim classes. We did do a mommy and me class when he was 6 months but that was more for me to get out and see people. I just taught him myself. I was a stay at home mom and our complex had a pool. We were literally there for hours everyday. My whole family loves the water. Just put on some arm floaty things and we were good. He’s a fairly good swimmer now even though he doesn’t go as much living in NJ. It’s important for us to swim because we go canoeing all the time. Plus in the summer I live in the water lol.

  • Reply Sarah |

    I would suggest assessing your girls yourself before enrolling them in a swim class. I put my middle child in swim lessons when he was 3-4. He REFUSED to put his face in the water. In fact, didn’t want a single hair on his head wet. Obviously, the lessons didn’t do much for him. He was a child who had to feel comfortable and do things on his own time. By the time he was 8, he had taught himself to swim and from then on out was a better swimmer than either his older sister or younger brother. Take your cues from the kids before spending your money!

  • Reply Kris |

    Both our kids has been in swimming lessons since 3 for us this was a must since we live near so many rivers and lakes. It’s a decision I have never regretted and has been great for us. Other sports activities we didn’t start until 4.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s kind of what I was thinking…maybe swimming starting at 3 and think about starting other activities next summer. I do like some of the other commenter’s advice though to try to take them myself (with hubs) and assess how well they do/how comfortable they feel/etc before committing to the lessons.

      • Reply Kris |

        Your completely correct, they may not be ready for lessons yet. We also never did lessons in the summer, just fall/winter/spring.

  • Reply Juhli |

    I was wondering if there are any parks with splash pads as an alternative to the pool? Playing in the water and learning to like getting wet but not running as well as cooling down is a great activity for little ones. Couple that with some visits to the kiddie pool with another adult along (1 on 1 supervision) to practice putting their face in the water, blowing bubbles and generally being relaxed at the noisy and busy pool environment. Next summer when they are nearly 4 seems like a more appropriate time for swim lessons to really take hold and last.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Good point! Actually we have access to a splash pad for free (there’s one at our preschool that is open to all members – not just during preschool hours). It’s a bit of a drive from us to go on a non-preschool day, but its free so that’s definitely a perk!

  • Reply Katie |

    What you want for your kids is called a “Puddle Jumper”. They’re the best floatation device for kids and keep them in a position that makes learning to swim easier.

    We did lessons at the Y, and it can be chaotic, but they’re cheap. Look at some of the “off” times for lessons and sign up for them. We switched from taking them on Saturday mornings, which was a zoo, to Friday afternoons. Both of my girls ended up in classes of 1 or 2 other kids on Fridays, sometimes even solo, for the group rate. We are a water family, and it was very important to me that my kids learn to swim. It was worth sticking with and shelling out the money. I didn’t want to be stressed out every time we were at the pool.

  • Reply JMM |

    Hi Ashley. I’m a fellow t-town resident and would offer this perspective. I enrolled both my kids in swim lessons starting at age 2 (Demont Swim on Ina and Shannon). Is it expensive – yes. $60 a month – the facility is indoor and lessons are 30 min. For 2 kids I paid $125 (there is a sib discount). However, desert life is a different kind of life – the weather lends itself to swimming almost all year around.

    I consider swim lessons a life skill. Due to the year-around heat, most homes have pools or access to community ones. It’s always scary to read about kids drowning or near drowning in the paper – my feeling was to give my kids the skills to prevent such a tragedy. Now my oldest (5) is on a swim team and my middle (3) is still trucking along.

    In addition, with access to a community pool you are missing out on an excellent source of exercise/play time that will tucker your kiddos out like you have never seen!

    I would note that I never leave either one unattended near or in a pool but at this point, I’m confident that should either one end up in the pool unintentionally- either could get to the edge and out safely (and without freaking out).

    My .02. Either way, I’m sure you will make the best decision for your family.

  • Reply JMM |

    Just realized my prior post said $125 a month for two kids (with an individual cost of $60 per student). Actual cost to have two enrolled always $117! (Includes sibling discount)

    So embarrassing!

So, what do you think ?