It’s important to make sure your children understand basic water safety, swimming strokes, and self-rescue techniques for a safe and fun experience in the water. However, there is no set age for when children must start learning how to swim. That’s why we at Crème de la Crème have put together this quick guide on how to tell when your child should start learning to swim and how to begin teaching them.

When Should Children Learn To Swim?

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There is no set age for when children have to learn to swim because children learn different skills at different rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives parents the go-ahead to start swim lessons for children who are at least 1 year old and mostly comfortable being in the water. That means the best age for when your child should learn to swim is when they’re ready.

In addition, the AAP states that swim lessons, especially between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, can help lower the risk of drowning for children in that age group and older. However, any classes for children less than a year old are not shown to reduce the risk of drowning for infants in that age group, according to the AAP. These classes should be treated as a fun bonding experience that also gets your infant used to being in the water with you or another caregiver.

Swim schools and other programs offer swim lessons for a variety of age groups. Classes for kids 1 year old and up should focus on age-appropriate foundational skills that also take into account a child’s experience in water. But, the AAP also points out that no amount of swim lessons can fully prevent drowning. These classes are meant to promote water safety as well as develop the physical skills needed to stay afloat and move in water. Parents should always watch their children when near or in water (including the bath), learn CPR, and promote water safety at home.

Benefits of Learning To Swim at an Early Age

Your child should learn how to swim eventually, but learning at an early age means they gain these skills sooner and may be more prepared to save themselves if need be. Here are the main benefits of getting your child swim lessons and safely practicing at home at an early age:

  • Knowledge of water safety: When taking swim lessons with certified professional instructors, children can become more aware of water safety rules, like learning that they should never go in the water without a caregiver’s permission. Parents can also better understand the importance of keeping a watchful eye when kids are around water and learn water safety rules they can enforce at home.
  • Self-rescue practice: Kids will learn protective swimming and floating maneuvers they can use if they accidentally fall into a body of water.
  • Improved motor skills: Swimming activates many parts of the body, including the arms, legs, and core. By learning to swim, your child can better develop their fine and gross motor skills.
  • Exercise: Swimming is also a fun and challenging form of exercise that trains muscles as well as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. During lessons and supervised or assisted practice, your child will be getting lots of exercise. And you might, too!
  • Boosted confidence: When your child learns any new skill, they are likely to gain confidence in their efforts. So, learning to swim can help build confidence as they progress through each lesson and eventually are able to swim on their own. 
  • Potential new activity: Swim lessons can even lead children to getting interested in competitive swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, or water polo. Or, kids may get involved in activities that require swim skills, like surfing, paddle boarding, scuba diving, and many other water sports.

How To Know Your Child Is Ready To Learn To Swim

Children can start learning to swim at any age, and there are many signs you can look for in your child’s behavior in and around water that can indicate they’re ready for this big step. 

First, take note of their reaction to large bodies of water and the idea of swimming. If your little one doesn’t like to get into the pool, they may need more time to get used to being in the water. Start small in an at-home or local pool and give them an age- and size-appropriate floatation device. Hold on to them while in the water until they can do an assisted float without you holding them. Do this until they’re fine getting into the water without hesitation or fear (but under your close supervision, of course).

If your child aged 1 year old and up starts kicking or dog-paddling once in the water, they may be a bit of a natural swimmer, which is a great sign that they may be ready for lessons. Or if your child picks up on some basic swimming maneuvers you’ve taught them, that’s also a good sign they may be ready for formal lessons.

Parents might also consider various factors in their children’s lives when figuring out when their kids should learn to swim. For example, you might encourage lessons sooner rather than later if they’ll be growing up in or frequently visiting a home with access to a pool, lake, or other body of water. In addition, if your family vacations in places with access to the water or frequents the local rec center or public pool, you might consider helping them learn to swim early.

Overall, it’s best not to push children to learn to swim if they really don’t want to. Let them take time to become interested in the water on their own terms. If you’re unsure whether your child is ready to start learning to swim, you can also consult your pediatrician to discuss your child’s individual needs and behaviors.

At Crème de la Crème, we aim to enrich your child through interactive lessons and hands-on activities in a variety of subjects. Our whole-child curriculum helps kids grow at every level of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Contact your local school to see which of our daycare, part time, before- and after-school programs, and camps are best for your child.