Preschooler Swim Lessons at the JCC Indianapolis

Swim Lessons For Ages 3-5 at the JCC Indianapolis

The JCC Indianapolis is a proud provider of Starfish Swimming® lessons, a nationally and internationally recognized swim instruction and instructor certification program that uses innovative and effective teaching methods and has safety concepts built in at every level.

Starfish Swim School classes are for children who are ready to swim. We start with blowing bubbles and water adjustment, progress to floating, kicking, and swimming on tummies and backs, and then to stroke improvement.

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Starfish Swim School® for Preschoolers: Ages 3-5

This swim instruction course for preschoolers will develop a high comfort level in the water and a readiness to swim, and for children who are developmentally ready, it will teach functional swim skills. This class approaches teaching swimming through repetition and creative, fun activities in the water. Students work toward developing the first three competencies and progress toward achieving the benchmarks at their own pace in a small-group setting.

Benefits of Preschool Swim Lessons

  • Safety: The greatest benefit to enrolling a child in swim lessons is safety. Drowning is the second highest cause of death involving youth ages 1 through 14. With formal swim instruction, children not only learn to swim, but they learn basic water safety techniques like floating and treading water. The risk of drowning decreases by 80% for children who have had swim lessons.
  • Strength and Fitness: Learning a swim stroke helps with gross motor skills development and basic coordination. Swimming also builds muscle strength in arms and legs and is a great aerobic activity.
  • Social Development and Confidence: While children are learning life-long skills, they’re also observing peers and learning social behaviors like waiting their turn. Achieving benchmarks serves to build self-confidence and independence. Most importantly, swimming is fun.

Starfish Swimming® Levels for Preschoolers

The skills at each level prepare students to achieve certain benchmarks, but the skills do not need to be mastered before moving to the next level.

For more information, download our Starfish Swim School Curriculum Chart.

The Level 1, White Stage is for teaching functional life-safety water skills in which swimmers gain confidence with swimming basics and going underwater.


The swimmer should be able to

  • Ask permission to get in the water.
  • Sit independently.
  • Jump in the water.
  • “Walk” along the side wall.
  • Listen and follow directions.
  • Climb out of the pool.
  • Pour water over her/his head.
  • Hold her/his breath (on land).
  • Look underwater and hold her/his breath (with and without goggles).
  • Jump in the pool and get her/his hair wet.

Safety Skill Benchmark

The preschool swimmer will be able to always ask permission before getting in the water.

Swim Skill Benchmark

Assisted submersion, relaxed, for 5 seconds, then come up to breathe.

Performance Criteria

If the swimmer cannot completely submerge for at least 5 seconds, she/he should be placed in a White Level class.

The Level 2, Red Stage is for swimmers who love water and can submerge themselves for five seconds but aren’t able to swim on their own.


  • Put on a lifejacket and kick.
  • Front float (assisted and unassisted).
  • Back float (assisted and unassisted).
  • Front streamline (assisted).
  • Submerge underwater, float or kick to surface and take a breath.
  • Roll front to back (assisted and unassisted).
  • Roll back to front (assisted and unassisted).

Safety Skill Benchmark

To put on a lifejacket, float on back, and kick for 6 meters or 20 feet.

Swim Skill Benchmark

To jump in the water, submerge, recover for air, and roll on back (kicking and finning) for 5 seconds in swimwear and in regular clothes.

Performance Criteria

If the swimmer submerges for at least 5 seconds yet cannot float relaxed (front and back) on the surface without support, then she/he should be placed in a Red Level class.

The Level 3, or Yellow Stage is for swimmers who can comfortably float on their front and back without support.


  • Reach and throw assists.
  • How to call emergency services.
  • Front streamline with kick (assisted and unassisted).
  • Back streamline with kick (assisted and unassisted).
  • Kick and pull on front (assisted and unassisted).
  • Swim underwater 3 meters or 10 feet with one breath.
  • Retrieve a submerged object.

Safety Skill Benchmark

To use flotation to help someone who is in trouble in the water (reach or throw, don’t go) and know how to call emergency services.

Swim Skill Benchmark

In swimwear and regular clothes, jump in, submerge, recover for air, kick, and pull forward 3 meters or 10 feet, on front or back, change direction, and return to wall using swim-roll-swim to breathe.

Performance Criteria

If the swimmer can jump in the water, come up on her/his back and float for 5 seconds, yet cannot move forward through the water for 3 meters or 10 feet, change direction and come back, then she/he should be placed in a Yellow Level class.

The Level 4, Blue Stage is for swimmers who can swim underwater or on the surface and get an occasional breath. Swimmers must be able to move through the water 10 feet and back without assistance.


  • Tread water.
  • Side glide with kick (both sides, assisted and unassisted).
  • Front streamline with kick, then roll to side to rest and breathe (both sides, assisted and unassisted).
  • Roll from side glide to front streamline, to side glide.
  • Roll from front streamline to back streamline.
  • Roll from back streamline to front streamline.
  • Side glide, one overarm pull, roll to back to rest and breathe.
  • Side glide, one overarm pull, roll to opposite side glide to rest and breathe.
  • Side glide, rotate to back, then roll to opposite side glide to rest and breathe.

Safety Skill Benchmark (for the Adult)

To tread water for 15 seconds.

Swim Skill Benchmark

To jump into the water, recover to a side glide, and kick for 10 feet

Performance Criteria

If the swimmer can move through the water for 3 meters or 10 feet, change direction and come back, yet she/he cannot swim basic freestyle stroke with “swim-roll-swim” or rotary (side) breathing, then she/he should be placed in a Blue Level class.

What to Expect

Preschoolers need a towel, to be wearing a swimsuit or designated swimwear, and goggles if they prefer. For some classes, students may be asked to wear regular clothing for building safety skills. Please note that face masks are not allowed in the water.

Classes are generally once a week, for three to six weeks depending on the season (in summer, classes may be twice a week).

When to arrive for class? Use your best judgment as to how long it will take your child to get changed; the classes do start at their scheduled time. For classes in the Backer Therapy Pool, the floor will be lowered to start the class at its scheduled time, so it is recommended to be there a couple of minutes early to ensure that you are there at that time.

There are different levels of swim instruction depending on a child’s capabilities. For a list of the levels and benchmarks, download our Starfish Swim School Curriculum and Core Skills Achievement Chart.

Levels 1-3 are taught in the Backer Therapy Pool; Level 4 and Stroke School are taught in the Regenstrief Indoor Lap Pool.

Classes labeled “Pre-School” are for ages 3-5, and classes labeled “Youth” are for ages 6-12.

If you have any questions about which level to place your child, please refer to the Starfish Swim School Curriculum and Core Skills Achievement Chart or contact Renae at

Classes fill quickly, so it’s best to register early to secure a spot.

All preschool swim lessons can be purchased at the Welcome Desk or use our online registration tool.

A minimum of three students must be enrolled for a class to run, otherwise it may be canceled. Those who are enrolled in the incorrect level may be moved, space permitting.

Cost varies per length of session; visit our online registration tool for more information.

Preschool Swim Scholarships are available for preschool swim lessons for children ages 3 to 5 years old. The scholarships are made possible by Paula, Harry, Dani, Donald, Dorothy, Daniel, Anna, Jonathan, and Sade on behalf of the Donald Etra Futures Fund. More information can be found on our Financial Aid & Scholarships page.

If a class is canceled due to low enrollment, you may:

  • transfer into another class, space permitting.
  • request a credit (swim lesson credits expire one year after date of purchase), or
  • request a refund by the end of the first week ONLY.

Please be aware that there are no make-up classes or refunds due to participant absence.

Aquatics Are Central at the JCC

Aquatics and learning to swim are deeply rooted in Jewish values and culture. Our aquatics program is integral to our community center, and we have built and maintained an aquatics center consisting of indoor, outdoor, competition-sized, and therapeutic pools. Our love of aquatics and passion for aquatic exercise starts early with swim lessons offered to all ages beginning at 6 months with parent/baby classes, continuing with lessons for children and classes for adults, and we offer arthritis and therapy classes for those well into their 90s.

Visit our Schedules page for the of hours and activities for our aquatics center.

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