I bet every time you see your child kicking and giggling while taking a bath, you wonder if it’s time to introduce swimming lessons. However, there is a big difference between taking a bath and swimming.
How do you know when they are old enough for swimming lessons? For the longest time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended not to start swimming lessons until the age of 4 since that was when they considered children to be developmentally ready.
BUT, they have since then revised their stance and suggest swimming lessons to start as early as age 1. This is based on new evidence that children ages 1-4 who have had some type of formal swim instruction, are less likely to drown.
Some experts feel that 6 months is ideal since babies start to develop a concept of fear at around 8 months.
Why Are Swimming Lessons Important?
You probably know that drowning is among the leading causes of death for toddlers. Naturally, they are attracted to water and accidents can occur in split seconds. Introducing swimming lessons for babies ensures that they learn to swim and aside from that, they are accustomed to drowning prevention skills.
Because it’s necessary that you as a parent, accompany your child to swimming lessons, it provides an opportunity to spend time together as they learn to swim.
You can make it fun by being playful and even incorporating some swimming games all while keeping a watchful eye on them. Baby and toddler swim classes can be just as fun for the parent as they are for the child.
Related: 6 Swimming Tips for Beginners (Kids and Adults)
Safety Precautions to Consider
Even though you will have a professional instructor guiding you through the whole process, you or another adult close to the child will need to be there with them.
You should always put ‘touch supervision’ into practice, which is being at an arms distance from your child, allowing you always to be able to touch your him or her. This way, you can easily swoop in when you see them struggle.
You should note that children who learn to swim do not become drown proof even after they are good at it. For this reason, it is advisable always to ensure that instructors you contact and work with understand YMCA guidelines that outline safety precautions.
Where to take swimming lessons should also be a concern for you. The establishment should promote safe pool behaviors and have professionals on the ready in case an accident occurs, and first aid needs to be done.
What to Look for in a Swimming Instructor
It’s very important to ensure that the instructor helping you guide your child through the swimming lessons is a professional who has been doing this for some time. Your child can easily suffer injuries, or even water poisoning in the pool and the instructor needs to know the immediate call to action needed in such situations.
Swimming lessons, according to YMCA guidelines, need to go for close to 30 minutes over a period of 10 weeks. Before you begin your child’s lessons, you should confirm with the instructor if she or he will be available for the entire period so that you don’t end up looking for other instructors to stand in for them.
Having one consistent instructor helps to easily pick up from the last lesson and keep track of the child’s progress.
Places to Take Swimming Lessons
Some of the best places for your baby, toddler, or child to take swimming lessons include the local community college, YMCA, community pool, or through the Red Cross.
In most cases, classes are available year round at different days and times of the day to best meet your family’s busy schedule. Swimming instructors are fully trained and safety is the number one priority.
In case you have a pool at home, you can hire a personal swimming instructor to come to you but you need to do your due diligence on any instructor you wish to hire. While the advantage of not having to travel anywhere may be nice, we recommend a public swimming pool (like mentioned above) so that your child interacts with other kids.
You can also learn about safety equipment and meet other parents who are taking their children through swimming lessons as well.
The swimming pool you finally settle for should have safety equipment provisions and subscribe to safety guidelines as per YMCA guidelines. Classes are setup according to age so when they are babies, they’ll likely be supported in the water by an adult most of the time.
As they get older, pool noodles, fins, or even swimming vests are used in class. Finally, at a certain age and skill, no swimming aids are used except for maybe a pair of swim goggles to keep the water out.
While it’s fairly easy to tell when a child is struggling in the water, every parent should also understand a different type of drowning. Secondary drowning (or dry drowning) is something just as serious that’s much harder to diagnose. Being educated on the various signs of secondary drowning is something that can literally save your child’s life.
All in all, teaching your child how to swim should be a fun a memorable process. Choosing the place where your child will take swimming lessons carefully will go a long way in putting your mind at ease so that you worry less and have fun more.
Keep in mind that even if your baby or toddler knows how to stay afloat in the water after swim lessons, they are still absolutely required to be wearing either an infant or toddler life jacket according to state laws.