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Swim Lessons for Kids

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Updated March 31, 2014

Girl jumping into mother's arms in a lake Jordan Siemens/Iconica/Getty Images

We have a pool at home and I want to make sure my kids enjoy the water and are safe. When can I start swim lessons?

Well, it depends on how old your kids are and what you mean by swimming lessons.

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend that you not begin formal swimming lessons until kids are at least 4 years old. That is the age that children are thought to be 'developmentally ready' for swim lessons.

That advice has changed though. While the AAP still recommends that all children who are four years old and older begin to take swimming lessons, they are no longer against aquatic programs and swimming lessons for younger toddlers and preschoolers between the ages of one to four years old.

That doesn't mean that your younger child who takes swimming lessons will become 'drown-proof' though. Infant and toddler aquatic programs are very popular among parents and kids and are a good way to teach your kids to enjoy being in the water. They can also help teach parents about how to be safe around the water. However, these types of programs may not decrease your child's risk of drowning and are not a substitute for adult supervision and safety in the water, although some small studies have found that 'some drowning prevention skills can be learned' by these younger children.

Keep in the mind that the AAP is not going out of their way to say that all children between the ages of one to four years take swim lessons. They are simply saying that it is okay to take swim lessons at this age if a parent wants to.

Will starting swim lessons early help your child learn to swim faster?

Probably not. Another study, Children's readiness for learning front crawl swimming, showed that whether kids 'started lessons at 2, 3 or 4 years of age,' they learned to swim well at 'approximately the same mean age of 5 1/2 years.'

Whenever you are thinking about your kids and their being in a pool and around water, keep in mind that 'drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury and death in the pediatric age group' and that 'drowning rates are the highest among children ages 1 through 2 years.'

So have fun in the water, but keep safety in mind at all times. Remember that swim lessons do not 'drown-proof' younger kids and that they should always be supervised in the water, 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.'

Drowning and Near Drowning Facts

  • in 2006, 1100 children under age 20 died from drowning, and for every child who drowns, three or four receive emergency department care for near-drowning or non-fatal submersion injuries, some of which lead to serious injuries including brain damage.
  • most drownings in younger children occur in the child's home pool
  • most of these children were left unsupervised for less than 5 minutes
  • drownings usually occur in the summer months, from May to August
  • drowning rates are highest on the weekends (Friday to Sunday) and at noon and 6pm

A 'layers of protection' safety program can help to keep your kids safe around your home pool. According to the CPSC, 'this includes placing barriers around your pool to prevent access, using pool alarms, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency.'

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