Goggles or no Goggles
The main question I get asked by new parents is whether they need goggles, or if we allow goggles in our lessons. There are a lot of opinions regarding this debate but I feel that it is important to experience swimming with and without goggles.
Every swim school is different so I do recommend asking your swimming lesson provider on whether they want your child to wear goggles. Swim schools can range from requiring all swimmers to wear goggles to not allowing them at all.
It is very important that all swimmers can swim without goggles. Water safety is the main goal of swimming lessons and being dependent on goggles can hinder your child's safety in and around water. If you accidently fall into water, you will not have goggles on and if you are used to only wearing goggles then there is a high chance you will panic when you hit the water, causing tension in the body and increasing the risk of drowning.
Introducing goggles to young swimmers can be difficult; they can be tight and uncomfortable. If this is the case, don't push them too much! Children playing with their goggles in the water does waste lesson time (also increasing the likelihood of them being misplaced). The best way to get your swimmer to be more comfortable wearing goggles is to introduce them outside of lessons. This could be role playing or practising in the bath.
There are so many different styles of goggles to choose from which also makes searching for the perfect ones hard. I personally don't like younger swimmers wearing the reflective goggles (or the ones that have eyes!) this is mainly because I cannot see their eyes. I like to have eye contact with my swimmers to make sure they are listening and are understanding what we are doing next.
Benefits of wearing goggles
Younger children are more likely to put their faces in the water and submerge themselves when they are wearing goggles. Going under the water without goggles is blurry, when wearing goggles they can see clearly under the water so more likely to explore. Goggles typically increase a child's comfort, relaxation and orientation in the pool.
As you know, swimming pools have chlorine in the water, meaning that your eyes may sting when under the water for a long period of time (the cleaner the pool the less likely your eyes will sting!). Goggles aid to prevent the water from irritating eyes. This may mean that a child can focus on their technique rather than worrying about their eyes.
In the early stages of swimming lessons (i.e. stage 1 and Stage 2), I recommend that every child learns to be comfortable in the water without wearing goggles. Children need to have the opportunity to experience the sensation of being in the water without being able to see clearly. This will help them learn how to orientate themselves in the water. Of course, if they are prescription goggles then they will be allowed them but will still need to experience water on their eyes.
Once the child is comfortable submerging and putting their face in when travelling across the pool without goggles, the option of wearing goggles can be helpful in allowing the swimmer to see the movement of their body parts clearly. If your child is adamant that they are wearing goggles for their lessons then that is okay, we will be asking them to take them off at certain points of the lesson.
It is our job as swim teachers (and parents) to make sure a child is not reliant on goggles. I used to be a lifeguard and I used to have the party shift with the big pool inflatable. No goggles were allowed on the inflatable so when some children slipped off, they would panic and I would have to get in to save them. This experience can have a big affect on children.
Goggles are a swimming aid, just like floats, you can't always swim with aids so goggles should not be used for their whole swim journey. They are a useful swimming tool, however relying on goggles and not restricting the use of goggles can magnify the risk of childhood drowning.
At Flippers Swim School, we do not require swimmers to use goggles during our swim lessons but we always offer swimmers the choice. If goggles are used, the instructor may require that swimmers practice a few skills without the goggles to ensure they can stay calm and complete skills without goggles.