The Right Time to Start Swimming

As a safety-conscious mama, you’ve probably thought about enrolling your baby or toddler in swimming lessons. Accidental drowning is the one of the leading causes of kids’ deaths every year, and you’re right to take action to make sure your little one doesn’t become a tragic statistic. But what is the right age for kids to take swimming lessons?

Although many swimming facilities begin offering Mommy-and-Me swimming instruction when babies are six months old, those classes tend to focus more on getting comfortable in the water than the skills necessary to remain afloat. The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions that although parents can begin lessons at age one, any lessons taken before a child’s fourth birthday are going to be insufficient to teach him or her to swim. At four years old, kids are able to hold their breath long enough to really develop the swimming skills necessary to be independent in the water, the AAP said in a statement.

The AAP’s official guidance aside, a 2009 study showed that kids under the age of four who have taken swimming lessons are at less risk of drowning than their lesson-less peers. The water safety messages parents receive when they participate in lessons with their young children may also help protect kids from aquatic accidents. And there is also the option to teach very young children the basic survival techniques like learning how to flip over and float on their backs, a skill some facilities will teach babies as young as six months. These lessons aren’t about having fun in the pool, but instead completely about how to stay alive until help arrives.

For most families, whether or not to teach babies water survival skills comes down their lifestyles and the level of exposure their kids have to water. People who have  pools or ponds in or near their homes may feel a much greater need to start their kids in swimming lessons early. If your children are never near large bodies of water, it might not feel as urgent to you. Of course, parents are always advised to remain within arms’ length of their children when they are in any amount of water, even if it’s something as small as the bathtub or a backyard kiddie pool.

If you’re planning on signing your little up for swimming instruction, experts recommend seeking out lessons with small teacher-to-student ratios, ideally fewer than 10 kids per instructor. And be sure to consider the pool itself. Too cold and you risk exposing your baby to hypothermia. Because of their immature immune systems and habit of drinking pool water, infants and small children are also at greater risk than healthy adults of contracting Recreational Water Illnesses (RWI) from public pools. If you take your kids swimming, be sure to choose a well-maintained pool and rinse off when you’re finished.

How important is it to you that your child take swimming lessons at a very young age? Will you be signing your child up for lessons before age four?