Is My Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

Boris op de rand
source: Ianus via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard stories of babies thrown in the water who come up swimming at six months. You’ve seen kids in the pool who look way too old to be wearing floaties. So when should a child learn how to swim?

Here are some tips, although of course you know your child best and should take that into mind.

  • Children younger than 3 are probably not able to do a swim lesson with an instructor. (Really, how often does your 2-year-old listen to YOU, nevertheless someone else when he is distracted by splashing?) Hold off on parent-free lessons until age 3. But if you can take a parent-child class, go for it if you toddler is comfortable with it.
  • Find a class that splits by age range so your child will not be mixed in with kids much younger or older.
  • Most experts will say that the motor skills for actual swimming are not developed until age 5 and beyond. Preschoolers will do great in simple getting-used-to-the-water type lessons, but don’t expect your son or daughter to learn how to really swim in a proper fashion before 5. The more comfortable he or she already is with the water, though, the easier lessons will be in the future.
  • Lessons will be progressive, so continue them each summer.
  • Studies show that whether you start swim lessons at 2, 3, or 4, most kids won’t start swimming independently until about 5 1/2.

I would conclude that you can start swim lessons when you’re comfortable with your child being in the water with an instructor – beginning with a parent-child class and moving onto group or individual instruction without parents in the pool. But don’t be discouraged if your preschooler doesn’t learn to swim independently.

(Puddle Jumpers are so wonderful for that age when they WANT to try to swim but can’t, too!)

Do you have any tips or stories about swim lessons?


God-Focused Summer Reading

While you’re trying to get your child to read this summer, why not slip in some books that will increase their faith as well as their reading level? Here are some ideas for books on every level.

God-Focused Summer Reading from Toddlers to Preteens

Babies and Toddlers


Early Elementary


Maybe that will help you jump-start some summer reading? I love that we have so much Christian media – books, TV shows, movies, music – that helps us reinforce biblical truth.

What’s one of your favorite Christian kids books?

5 Educational Websites for Summer Learning

Are you out of school yet? It feels funny to ask that, seeing that my daughter’s kindergarten year ended on May 18. But I know most schools get out later than that. I didn’t graduate until June 16 in Virginia, where we had the no-starting-until-after-Labor-Day rule.

I’m sure, like me, you don’t want your child’s reading level to go down during the summer, not do you want him or her to stop learning. But how do you make it fun? There are a million great ways (I highly recommend I Can Teach My Child if you have a toddler/preschooler/kindergartner). And one tool we use at home is our basic desktop computer.

While I certainly don’t want to fry my kid’s brain with screens all the time, she is allowed to use the computer a couple times a week for a half-hour or so. We are pretty insistent that she stay on educational sites, despite her new interest in finding URLs on brochures and wanting to visit the “Lego GIRLS” site. (Bleccch.)

Here are some of our favorite sites and some others I’ve seen highly recommended.

abcmouse_classroom (paid) – ABCMouse is an “interactive classroom” for kids ages 2 through 7. Our kids started using it about age 4, when they could control the mouse. It teaches basic reading and math skills as well as offering simple lessons on animals, space, and more. The learning path has 6 levels, going from pre-reader to kindergarten levels. My daughter is 6 1/2 and can read well, but she still enjoys the lessons, earning tickets, and playing around with the different features. It’s about $8/month, but you can try it out on a 30-day trial.

reading-eggs-screenshots (paid) – Reading Eggs is a service we were gifted through my daughter’s school. Its curriculum is a little wider than ABC Mouse, spanning ages 3 to 14. Through Reading Eggs, kids can work on letter sounds, sight words, spelling, and a bunch more! Like ABC Mouse, there are levels that you move through and receive “golden eggs” as prizes, making it feel like a game. The cost is about $50 for 6 months or $59 for a year, with a 2-week free trial.

pbskids (free) – Since we don’t have cable, my kids are pretty familiar with the beloved PBS characters: Curious George, Cat in the Hat, Daniel Tiger, Sid the Science Kid, the Wild Kratts … need I go on? On the PBS Kids website, little ones can play games related to the series, as well as watch short videos or print out pictures to color or activities to do. My kids especially love the “pipe game” from Odd Squad, which helps with spacial reasoning.


Discovery Kids (free) – Is your child obsessed with dinosaurs? Space? Sharks? Discovery Kids might be a good site to visit, then. There are games that vary from building a roller coaster to exploring volcanoes to virtual jigsaw puzzles. The “Puterbugs” system jumped out at me – a game focusing on teaching typing alongside reading, writing, and math.


Superbook (free) – Looking for something to enhance spiritual learning? Based on the CBN series Superbook, this site has games, videos, a virtual Bible with daily “challenge” and character discovery, trivia, and more. Kids can even submit their prayer requests. For fun, I tried out the Bible Brain Busters game. Definitely suited for older kids (because you need to read and answer fast), some of the questions were funny and some tricky, but they will definitely learn something. Mom and Dad might enjoy quizzing each other, too.

Do you have any favorite websites for kids’ learning?

Staying Active During the Summer

Exercising as a family
source: Aikawa Ke via Flickr Creative Commons

Recently on my personal blog’s Facebook page, I expressed some worry about keeping up my exercise routine this summer. You see, for the first time in my life, I actually have one. I’ve consistently gone to the Y 2-3 times a week at least since September, right after school got into full swing. I love my water aerobics and Zumba classes. And I’m a little worried that summer is going to throw this routine right out the window.

I got some great suggestions from my friends over there. One person mentioned that if the kids are biking, running, etc, she was also biking or walking. I’m trying to put that in practice immediately; when my kids are playing around on tricycles or bikes, I am walking small laps around the circle area. (And chasing a 2-year-old. Always!)

Another friend said to have a gym where the childcare was so awesome she couldn’t bribe her daughter with doughnuts NOT to go was essential. Two out of three of my children loooove the YMCA childcare. The center where I go has an awesome climbing area with slides, mazes, the works. My introverted 4-year-old, however, hates the place. He would rather be coloring or playing with cars. But once he gets there, he will generally at least wander around. So while I am exercising, they are getting exercise, too. And their love for the center motivates me to stick to my workout.

Even if you don’t belong to a gym, your family can stay active together this summer. Here are a few more suggestions.

  • Take a nightly walk after dinner, when the weather is slightly cooler.
  • Swim. A lot! Swimming burns a ton of calories, builds muscles, and strengthens the core. Plus you stay cool and have fun.
  • Train for a 5K together.
  • Make a list of all of the playgrounds in your city. Make it a goal to visit all of them during the summer. The kids will be more active as they explore a new area. You can chase kids, push swings, walk laps, or do push-ups on the equipment.
  • Limit technology – yours and theirs – until you’ve had 30 minutes of physical activity that day.
  • Do an exercise DVD or find something on YouTube. My young kids love to join me when I do this!
  • Find more ideas about local activities, camping, hiking, and more on

Let’s make a commitment together to stay active this summer. Do you have any great tips?

Summer Spiritual Learning by Brian Dembowczyk

A Simple Way to Build Faith

“Daddy, can we do the questions?” That request is music to my ears. Shortly after our son, Joshua, turned 5, my wife and I began teaching him a catechism, which is a series of questions and answers designed to explain basic biblical doctrine.

Bedtime stories

What We’ve Learned

We began asking Joshua a new question every second or third day as part of the prayer and snuggle time we have with him and his 2-year-old sister. Several things amazed us right away.

  • Joshua was able to answer many of the new questions correctly with little or no help. It is encouraging to see that what we talk about at home and what he hears at church are anchoring firmly in his mind and heart.
  • He was able to quickly and easily learn new questions. Children have an amazing capacity to absorb information. We want to pour the gospel into our children as much as possible to take advantage of this developmental stage.
  • He was eager to “do the questions.” Showing a little encouragement and excitement when he answers questions correctly goes a long way and is helping him have fun as he learns about God.
  • The catechism questions began fueling wonderful spiritual conversations about God, life, heaven, and his unchurched friends. Initiating spiritual conversations has become easier and more natural.
  • Our biggest surprise was that our daughter, Hannah, was learning almost as much as Joshua! Our hearts quickly began to melt when we heard our 2-year-old’s sweet voice articulating biblical truth. It reinforces the principle that you can’t start this process too early.

A Great Opportunity

As a parent, you know that summer is a mixed blessing of free time for your child. Why not invest some of that time into teaching your child a catechism or challenging your child to learn a Bible verse each week until school starts? Or do both and learn a verse with each question. Sweeten the challenge by offering a quality reward at the end of the summer if he succeeds. (God mentions rewards quite often in the Bible; there is nothing wrong with motivating a child similarly!) Let this summer be a life-changing summer for your child. Perhaps you will experience the same change as well!

Sample Questions

Q. Who made you?

A. God.

Q. What else did God make?

A. Everything.

Q. Why did God make you?

A. For His own glory.

Q. How can you glorify God?

A. By loving Him and doing what He says.

Q. Why should you glorify God?

A. Because He loves me and takes care of me.

Ways to Impact Your Child Spiritually

  • Find a church with Saturday evening services and attend a few during the summer. Attending a different church’s worship service may further energize your family’s walk with Christ.
  • Find different ministry opportunities in which to participate as a family (soup kitchens, clothes closets, etc).
  • Make it a goal to invite a friend to church each Sunday during the summer.
  • Encourage your child to keep a prayer journal during the summer.


Brian Dembowczyk is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Assimilation at FBC Tampa, Florida. He is married to Tara and is father of Joshua (5) and Hannah (3). You can follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianDembo or check out his blog at

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Summer Beach Reads for Moms and Dads

My husband and I are very much looking forward to spending some time this summer ALONE for our 10th anniversary. We’re hitting up a nice island with a beach and without our kids for a few days. I am excited about spending a lot of time reading.

Are you headed to the beach, too? Or at least a chair by the pool or in your backyard? If you’re looking for a nice, clean book for a summer read, here are some ideas.


What would you recommend for a good beach read?

Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:


3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

National Geographic Kids

PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV



5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.


Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

Cold Treats for Hot Days

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Tennessee it is HOT. After an on-and-off Spring (is it Summer? is it Winter?) it’s finally dived into true, humid summer in the South.

Licking popsicle drips on a hot Summer afternoon is a happy memory every child should have! Here are some ideas for easy to treats to make at home. Popsicle molds are very inexpensive and a worthwhile purchase for parents.

Popsicles are also a great way to get some extra nutrients into your kids. Mine will happily suck on popsicles made only with fresh fruit and fruit juices. You can even stick in a handful of spinach when they’re not looking. Dark berries like raspberry, blackberry, or strawberries will usually cover the green color from the leafy greens.

Homemade popsicles are so much more healthy than store-bought ones made with food coloring and corn syrup. Here are a few recipes to inspire you! (Subscribers will need to click through to see Pinterest embeds.)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Popsicles from Carrots & Chocolate

Honeydew-Raspberry Popsicles at Kitchen Simplicity

Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles at The Novice Chef

Healthy Strawberry Popsicles at Vanderbilt Wife

What’s your favorite kind of popsicle or frozen treat?

Ahh, Summertime!

Summer fun

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I have loved summer since I was a kid. Back then, summer was for playing outside, attending special church camps and events, vacationing, working in our garden, staying up late, laboring on our farm, and playing baseball.

My kids don’t have quite the same agenda, but there is still lots of playing, staying up late, church events, vacation, and baseball.

Pick up our July issue of ParentLife this Sunday and see all the great content about summer for families.

  • Moving or preparing a child to enter school for the first time? Check out Kristen White’s “Smooth Moves” (pp. 36-37).
  • Planning to spend lots of time outdoors? Then don’t forget these summer safety tips in “Super Summer Outdoor Safety” (pp. 24-25).
  • Looking for great summer activities? Dig in to “Create and Play” (pp. 30-31) and “Fast, Fun, and Free!” (pp. 32-33) for some great summer fun ideas.
  • Wanting a new twist on celebrating Independence Day? See “A Celebration of Heritage” (pp. 42-43) and find ways to celebrate Independence Day and explore history with your kids.
  • Make studying the Bible fun this summer. Check out “The Rizers” (pp. 20-23) to find out how they make Scripture memorization rock for kids (and adults — their catchy tunes will have you jamming to Scripture when you least expect it).

We offer lots of activities to help fill your schedule but let me recommend something often overlooked to supplement your summer fun: nothing. A day full of planned activities doesn’t give kids the opportunity to be bored and use their imaginations. Take some time to do nothing together. In fact, mark it on your schedule so you’re sure to keep your appointment with your kids for a day filled with kid-directed play.
Let us know what fun you are planning this summer!

Photo Source: vastateparksstaff


Safe Swimming

Check out the following swimming safety tips to help stay safe this summer.

  1. July_26_Swimming.jpgDon’t Swim Alone. Do not allow children to swim without an adult. Even adults should never swim alone. In a pool, swim at a depth that is safe for you. Keep in mind that swimming at night increases all risks.
  2. Follow Regulations. If you are at a public pool or beach, follow all regulations and lifeguard directions.  Depth markers are important. Never dive into shallow water. Additionally, if there is not a lifeguard on duty, take extra safety precautions.
  3. Learn to Swim. Learning basic swimming and floating techniques saves lives. Check with your local YMCA or community pool for information on swimming lessons from a certified swimming instructor.
  4. Safety Equipment. It is important to keep rescue equipment by the pool or on your boat. Life preservers and life jackets should be easy to access in case of an emergency. At home, keep a telephone and emergency numbers poolside. Additionally, parents should know CPR. Statistics show that when CPR is performed, it improves the outcome for drowning victims.
  5. Fencing. If you have a pool at home, make sure the pool is completely surrounded by fencing.  Fencing should be at least four feet high and separate the house, yard, or play area from the pool. Fencing latches and locks should be high enough to be out of the reach of children. Remove all toys from the pool and surrounding areas immediately after use. The presence of toys may encourage children to enter the pool area unsupervised.
  6. Flotation Vests. When boating, you should wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation vest, regardless of your swimming abilities. Even while wading in the ocean or at the lake, it is recommended to wear a personal flotation device. This is especially important for inexperienced swimmers and children. Remember, water wings, noodles, inner tubes, and rafts should never take the place of an approved flotation device.
  7. Designated Areas. Swim only at designated beaches or in swimming areas marked with buoys that keep boaters, water skiers and jet skiers away. If you cross these buoys, you run the risk of not being seen by boaters, and you could potentially be injured. Additionally, rip currents, tides, and water depths may be different the farther out you swim.
  8. Surf Conditions. Ask a lifeguard about surf conditions before swimming in the ocean. Rip tides are dangerous and can catch even the best swimmers off guard. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore. Once you are free of the current, swim toward the shore.  Rip currents can be recognized as water that is discolored, choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from the shore. Report any hazardous conditions to the lifeguard.
  9. Warning Flags. Beaches post warning flags to alert swimmers of the day’s conditions.  Be sure to check these flags before entering the water. a. Double Red: The beach is closed. b. Red: No swimming allowed – Dangerous conditions. Usually this flag is up when there are extremely dangerous rip currents. c. Yellow: Swim with caution. Be cautious of strong long shore currents or other swimming hazards. d. Green: Safe swimming conditions. Swim with usual care.

Did you know?

  • Swimming is the third most popular recreational activity.
  • Ninety two percent of children who survive a drowning are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and 86% children who die are found after 10 minutes.
  • The 2010 hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30. Hurricanes can create dangers in the water such as rip currents, increased swell sizes and larger waves. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States.
  • Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at-risk of drowning.

For swimming safety information, visit

About the author:  Bret Almassy is the Vice President of Residential Services for AlliedBarton Security Services,, the industry’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel to many industries including commercial real estate, higher education, healthcare, residential communities, chemical/petrochemical, government, manufacturing and distribution, financial institutions, and shopping centers.