In many parts of the world, people learn to swim by imitating others, most often their parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. Most youngsters in North America also take lessons at swim clubs, community centers, schools, and recreational facilities. In addition, the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) and the American Red Cross sponsor programs that teach children about water safety.
Instructors teach students skills that will make them safe, efficient, and confident swimmers. Beginners first put their heads in the water and blow bubbles by exhaling. Gradually, students progress to floating, treading water, and ultimately, learning the techniques of the major strokes.
Students use various pieces of equipment during these lessons. Water-wings are inflatables worn around the upper arms; they allow children to float easily. Kickboards are buoyant boards that students can rest their arms on; this keeps their upper bodies afloat and allows them to concentrate on kicking correctly. Pull-buoys are foam floats that swimmers hold between their thighs to keep the lower body high and flat on the surface of water; using them, students can learn the arm and upper body movements of various strokes. Paddles are small, firm boards fitted over the hands; they force students to pull their arms through the water correctly. Fins worn on the feet allow swimmers to go faster and to develop proper body position and power.