Swim Lessons: When to Start & What Parents Need to Know
Learning to swim should be a priority for all families. It’s an important skill that can play an essential role in helping children prevent drowning, one of the leading causes of death among children. Children, and their parents, need to learn to swim to help make their time in the water safe and fun!
Here’s some advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on when is the best time to start swim lessons and what a good swim lesson program should include.
When should my child learn to swim?
Children develop at different rates, and not all are ready to start swimming lessons at the same age. When making your decision, consider the child’s emotional maturity, physical development and skill limitations, and the child’s level of confidence in the water.
The AAP recommends swimming lessons as an added protection against drowning that many children can start as early as the age of 1.
Swim lessons for parents and toddlers and preschoolers: These are beneficial to many families.
Recent studies suggest that water survival skills classes and swimming lessons may reduce the risk of drowning in children ages 1-4. Classes for parents and their young children are also a great way to start good water safety habits and start preparing them to learn to swim. If your child seems ready, it’s a good idea to start school early.
Classes for children over the age of 4 are an absolute necessity for most families.
By the time they are 4 years old, most children are ready for swimming lessons. At this age, they can usually learn techniques to survive in the water, such as floating, pedaling, and finding an exit point. By the time they are 5 or 6, most kids who take swimming lessons learn front crawl (doggy style). If your child hasn’t started swimming lessons, they should do so now!
Must Read: 7 reasons why Lifeguarding and swimming training is extremely useful
Does the AAP recommend swimming lessons for babies?
NO, because there is no current evidence that swimming lessons for babies under 1 year of age reduce their risk of drowning. Babies at this age show reflex movements for swimming, but are unable to raise or lift their heads well out of the water to breathe. However, you can enroll in a parent-child swim class to help your baby learn to be comfortable in the water; this can be an activity for you to enjoy together.
Remember, swimming lessons don’t make kids “drowning proof.”
Always keep in mind that swimming lessons are only one of several important forms of protection needed to help prevent drowning. Another form of protection is constant and focused supervision when your child is in or around the pool or on any surface with water. It is also critical to obstruct access to pools when it is not time to swim. The Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed that 69% of children under the age of 5 were not expected to be in the pool when they drowned.
What should I keep in mind when looking for swimming lessons?
Look for classes and instructors that don’t just focus on stroke techniques, but include techniques for learning how to survive in the water. All children must learn how to return to the surface when they are in the water, how to push themselves (swim) at least 25 yards (23 m) and out of the water, for example. Instructors must assess children’s progress and provide feedback on their skill level.
For children of all ages, look for programs that:
Have trained and experienced instructors. Swim instructors must be trained and certified and have followed a nationally accredited learn-to-swim curriculum. They must also have lifeguards or lifeguards on duty during classes who have current certification to practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.
Teach good safety habits in or around the water. Children must learn that they should never swim alone or without adult supervision. Instructors should teach children that they should always ask permission from a parent, lifeguard course, or swim instructor before entering a pool or any surface with water such as a lake.
Teach what you can do if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly. This includes practicing skill techniques in the water, such as self-rescue (evacuation). Classes must offer a variety of realistic conditions, such as falling into the water or having to swim with clothes on. Older children should also learn what to do if they see someone else having difficulty in the water, and how to ask for help.
Allow you to see a class first to see if this class is right for your child. Not all swim lessons are the same, and parents should compare their options and choose the one that best suits their needs. Are they swimming most of the time, or do they have long periods of inactivity during which you have to wait for your turn? Do children receive individualized attention? Are the instructors friendly and experienced?
They require multiple sessions. Once the children start school, you should be able to see consistent and gradual progress in their skills over time. Continue with the classes at least until they have mastered the basic techniques for surviving in the water.