Here are some factors to consider when figuring out whether your child is ready for swim classes.
AT WHAT AGE CAN BABIES LEARN TO SWIM?
Swimming instruction definitely isn’t a must-do for babies or young toddlers — and it isn’t for every tot either, so don’t force the issue, says The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The group supports swimming lessons for most children 4 years old and up who are ready to learn, but recently updated their guidelines to extend their recommendation to all children over the age of 1 who show signs of readiness and are frequently exposed to water.
If your sweetie seems ready for splashing in something bigger than the bath, discuss the topic of swim lessons with his pediatrician, who can give you a better idea of where your child is developmentally, emotionally, and physically, and make a recommendation of a suitable program in your area.
WHEN SHOULD MY CHILD START SWIMMING LESSONS?
Age isn’t the only predictor of when your child might be ready to swim. Keep in mind that each child will be ready to swim on his own timeline. If your little one is frequently exposed to the water, be it a pool or the beach, physically coordinated so he can kick and paddle at the same time, and emotionally ready (read: not afraid of the water), all swim signs point to go. In that case, look for a swimming-readiness program that’ll teach him the basic moves — how to float, for instance, and doggie paddle. Look for small classes (fewer than six students) with instructors who are certified in CPR, first aid and water safety. And remember, “touch supervision” should be strongly enforced whenever your tot is in the water (meaning you or another seasoned swimmer should always be within touching distance of the child), especially for babies, toddlers and older children who may be new to splishing and splashing without Mom and Dad hanging on.
- For infants under the age of 1, the AAP recommends against swim programs because the risks may outweigh the benefits. For example, a baby may easily swallow too much water, which could lead to water poisoning, or have trouble adjusting to the cold temperatures in the pool and, in rare cases, experience hypothermia.
- For children ages 1 to 4, seek parent-and-child aquatics programs (many local community centers and pools offer them) that adhere to YMCA guidelines, where the instructors are trained professionals who are certified in CPR and never allow a child’s head to go below the water’s surface.
- For swimmers ages 5 and older who are already accustomed to the water, you can try programs that hold classes for kids both with and without parents. Try to find one that focuses on safe pool behavior as well as paddling and kicking. Consider classes that run up to 30 minutes over an eight- to 10-week period so kids can build on foundational skills and eventually move on to coordinating movement of the arms and legs.