What is the Best Age to Teach a Child to Swim?

The question often asked after “When is the earliest my child can take swimming lessons?” is usually, “What is the best age to teach a child to swim?”. Exposure to water and building water confidence can be done as early as three months. This is a good approach if you want to mitigate the fear of water which manifests in children later on. The optimal age for learning is four to seven years old. Children in this age bracket really begin to learn and retain information.

The ideal time to start your child on a swimming program depends partly on the parent and the child’s interests. If you reside in an area with easy access to pools or bodies of water, ensure your child is water ready. The teaching style should be encouraging rather than coercive. It should also include safety skills such as floating on one’s back and controlled breathing.

“Kids won’t really become competent swimmers until age six or seven,” says Terri Lees – a Red Cross instructor and trainer whom sits on the organization’s Scientific Advisory Council. But it’s a slow progression, she says. “Just like a child slowly progresses from immobile to walking over months,” so starting at four or five can be helpful, she says. Will starting swim lessons early help your child learn to swim faster? Probably not. An older study on children’s readiness for learning front crawl swimming showed that whether kids started lessons at two, three or four years of age, they learned to swim well at approximately the same mean age of five and a half years. That being said, you can gauge which age is the best age to teach a child to swim. After all, you know your child best. As long as you stay informed, you can make the best decision for your child.

Reduce the Risk of Drowning

A 2009 U.S. study found an 88 percent reduction in drowning risk in kids ages one to four who had taken swimming lessons. Researchers identified 61 such drownings and compared the victims to children in the same communities who were similar in age and gender. The sample was indeed small, says study author Ruth Brenner, an investigator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. While its size limits wider extrapolations, the study did show that swimming instruction reduced rather than increased risk, she says. A similar study conducted in China found that swimming lessons reduced drowning risk by 40 percent.

Speak to your Paediatrician

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 now supports swimming lessons for children ages one and older. That is, if they show signs of water readiness and are frequently exposed to water.

If your child seems ready for splashing in something bigger than the bath, discuss the topic of swim lessons with the pediatrician. They can give you a better idea of where your child is developmentally, emotionally and physically. Based off of their assessment, they can make a recommendation of a suitable program in your area.

Toddler aquatic programs are very popular for both parents and kids. These programs are a good way to teach your kids to not only enjoy, but learn how to be safe around the water. However, these types of programs may not decrease your child’s risk of drowning. They are not a substitute for adult supervision and safety in the water. Although, findings from some small studies suggest that “some drowning prevention skills” are indeed teachable to younger children.

When Should my Child Start Swimming Lessons?

When to start swimming lessons depends in part on your child and your family. Is your child emotionally and physically ready for swim lessons? Does your family spend a lot of time near water or on a boat? Is there a pond on your property? 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 their own timeline. So while many experts agree the best age to teach a child to swim is four to seven; assess your child and their abilities/ comfort in the water.

For children ages one to four, seek parent-child aquatics programs or one-on-one lessons. Look for instructors that are trained professionals and certified in CPR. AquaMobile provides at home private swimming lessons. AquaMobile’s certified private swim instructors will travel to your home or condo pool to teach one-on-one private swim lessons in the comfort of your own pool.

Consider classes that run up to 30 or 60 minutes over an eight to ten-week period for swimmers ages five and up. Lessons like this will build on foundational skills and eventually move on to coordinating movement of the arms and legs.

Pool safety

Keep safety in mind at all times. Remember that swim lessons do not drown-proof younger kids and that an adult should always supervise them, whether or not they know how to swim. Even with floaties or a life vest, you should learn to practice “touch supervision,” which the AAP describes as a caregiver being within an arm’s reach or able to touch the swimmer at all times.

You should also take other precautions, including instructing babysitters on pool hazards and showing them how to use protective devices. When you have a social gathering around the pool, have the adults take turns being the watcher so you ensure there are eyes on the kids at all times. Whenever a child is suddenly missing, check the pool first. Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and ensure all family members do as well. Don’t let your pool attract children when it isn’t in use and remove toys from around it. Make sure the gate or pool barrier is never left open.

When did your child start swimming lessons? From your experiences, do you agree that the age bracket (ages four to seven) is indeed the best age to teach a child to swim? Let us know in the comments below!