When should my child start learning how to swim?
Experts are divided on the best age. The answer depends on your definition of swimming lessons, your child's age and natural ability. When should my child start learning how to swim?
Learning to swim should be a top priority for every family. When making your decision to start learn to swim lessons, consider your child’s emotional & physical developmental abilities and comfort level in the water. Swimming lessons at any age can’t “drown proof” a child. There is no substitute for adult supervision and safety in the water. So, when should my child start learning how to swim? Here are some tips that will help you to decide.
Natural ability – Every child can learn to swim despite a lack of natural ability.
Understanding parents and swimming teachers will encourage consistency, effort and focus that will motivate the child to overcome the lack of natural ability and build confidence.
Age will play a critical role in the child’s progress. Depending on their gross & fine motor skill development, any sports skill could be limited especially the skills needed for the motions of swimming strokes.
As children get older their motor skills improve.
Is swim programs recommended for babies under 1 year old? The answer is NO. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) there is currently no evidence that infant swim programs for babies under 1 year old lower their drowning risk.
The main objective are to engage children with water early. Parent and baby water play classes/program are not designed to teach a baby how to swim on their own. They are meant for child and parent to have fun together, safely, in the water.
Swimming lessons for ages 1 to 4 years old
Although toddlers and preschoolers (ages 1 to 4) can benefit from parent-child water safety and aquatic skills training classes that emphasize water adjustment and swimming readiness skills, most children are only developmentally (Gross & fine motor skills) ready for swimming lessons when they are about 3-4 years old.
Children can start having lessons independently between the ages of 3 and 4 without parental support in the water. Swimming strokes involve rhythmic and coordinated movements of all major body parts, torso, arms, legs, hands, feet, and head.
Therefore, children under 4 lack the necessary developmental skills needed to coordinate the motions of swimming strokes essential to their safety and survival.
At age 4 they develop better upper-body mobility and their whole-body coordination improves. Swimming enables children to improve essential skills such as balance, posture, coordination and concentration. But, swimming requires developed gross motor skills which are movements that involve large muscle groups. Some milestones for gross motor skills also involve eye-hand coordination.
One of our 6-year-old swimmers doing 25m laps
Age groups and how long it takes to become water-wise and learn basic water safety skills.
12-24 months – The earlier a child gets introduced to water, the better. As explained above, children at this age can participate in aquatic fun & safety programs with the parent.
24-36 months – Learning the basic water safety skills can take up to 1 year or 40 – 50 lessons.
3-4 years of age – with no previous swimming experience will take about 6 months to one year to learn to be safe in the water (24-50 swim lessons)
By age 4, most children are ready for swim lessons. At this age, they can usually learn basic water survival skills which are, entering and exiting the pool safely, control their breath by putting their faces underwater without swallowing it, floating on their back, swimming forward with the “doggy paddle” and treading water.
By age 5 or 6, most children that are in a learn to swim program can master the front crawl. If your child hasn’t already started in a learn-to-swim program, now is the time!
The process of learning to swim depends on many factors as discussed above. The sooner your child begins with a learn to swim program the sooner they will learn be safe in the water. Water safety is a family affair.
One of several essential ways to help prevent drowning is enrolling in quality learn to swim programs, once your child is ready for it. If you are not sure, talk with your paediatrician if you have any questions about whether your child is developmentally ready for swim lessons.
If your child knows how to swim at a young age, this skill is forever with them. In their later years, their longevity and quality of life will be enhanced by swimming.