When Is The Best Time To Start Swimming Lessons?

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Are you thinking about getting a pool for the backyard? If you have young children, it may be time for them to start swimming lessons. Making sure they’re properly trained in swim and water safety is important for pool play.

But what about your infant or toddler? Learning to swim is certainly a child’s rite of passage. However, a lot of times parents don’t realize how important starting early can be.

We’re going to go over the importance of swim lessons and water safety for children. We’ll also break down different techniques and styles as well as appropriate lessons by age.

Importance Of Swim Lessons And Water Safety

Around one in every five drowning deaths involve children under the age of 14, with children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old having the highest drowning statistics. This is largely due to parents’ lack of knowledge of water safety.

Swimming is an important life skill that any person should have and the earlier you learn and become comfortable with water, the better.

In most cases, you’ll find that swim lessons for kids will start at around 6 months of age. At this level, the lessons are meant to help your baby get acquainted with the water and for you to learn water safety.

While these aren’t “proper” swim lessons, they are meant to set the groundwork for when your child can be enrolled in the next level where they start to learn different techniques.

It’s important to keep in mind whether or not your child is ready to start swimming lessons as well. Putting them in lessons before they’re ready may traumatize them and will end up being counterproductive. If your child is iffy about the water, build them up to it by starting with the bathtub.

Swim Lessons By Age

Depending on how old your child is and how much experience they have with the water, there are different lesson levels. When choosing a lesson for your child, you may find it more helpful to go off of their experience level. Swim lesson age ranges vary from place to place so in one class you may have infants–older toddlers and others may break it up even more.

toddler in a pool

Infants And Toddlers

While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that swim lessons aren’t effective until the age of 4, there are still infant programs available. At this age, swim lessons are designed to get your child familiar and comfortable with the water.

One technique that has gained a lot of popularity is the ISR swim method. With this method, your baby is taught how to roll on their back, rest, and breathe until help arrives.

There is, however, a lot of controversy that comes with this technique. The AAP says that children don’t have the brain power to learn these techniques at such a young age.

Even worse is that just about anyone can market themselves as a swim instructor without having any proper training. This is because there isn’t any governing body that accredits swim instructors.

If you like the idea of the ISR swim method, be sure to find a certified instructor near you. These instructors go through extensive training before they can consider themselves ISR certified.

Infant and toddler swim classes typically require parents to either be with their child in the water or by the pool to make sure they follow the rules.

Beginning Swimmers

Once your child reaches around 3 years old, their lessons will be taught independently of you. This is where they learn the basic skills of swimming safety. These include blowing bubbles, back/front floating, and the basic arm and leg movements for freestyle swimming.

Depending on where you go, beginner classes may be broken up into more than one level. As your child progresses through the stages, they will start learning more swimming techniques like the backstroke.

Once your child is comfortable in the water and their basic skills, they may even learn the side-breathing technique before they move on to the next level.

Intermediate Swimmers

Once your child graduates from beginner lessons, they may not be done yet. While beginner lessons give your child the basic knowledge they need to be safe, continuing lessons is beneficial.

Keeping up with your child’s swim lessons will ensure they become strong swimmers, which will further increase their comfortability in water.

Intermediate classes will help your child improve their freestyle and backstroke techniques as well as teach others. Your child may be introduced to styles like breaststroke and butterfly.

Your child will also learn other skills important for water safety, including:

  • Breath control
  • Swimming endurance

Advanced Classes

After enrolling your child in lessons and seeing them grow, they may learn to love swimming as a sport. In this case, you may want to keep up with advanced classes after they graduate from intermediate.

In these classes, your child will learn advanced techniques like:

  • Improving their strokes
  • Gaining endurance
  • Competition skills—these include starts and finishes as well as different turns

Finding An Instructor

When searching around for a swimming instructor, there are some things you should keep in mind. You don’t want to entrust your child to just anyone and you certainly don’t want to waste money on a glorified playdate.

So how do you find the right instructor? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

swimming pool

Are They Certified?

The first thing you should take note of is if they’re certified and what their certification entails. Swim schools like SafeSplash and ISR require extensive training for their instructors. This will help ensure your child is with a trusted adult and that they’ll actually learn proper water safety.

Do You Like Their Curriculum?

Depending on which school you choose, the curriculum will vary. You’re going to want to find a swim school with lessons that you agree with. A school’s website will typically have a tab that explains their curriculum and the general idea of what your child will learn in each class.

What Are Their Ratios?

Just like when choosing a regular school, keeping in mind the student-to-teacher ratio will help solidify your decision. This is especially true if you like the idea of a smaller class.

Start Swimming

The warm summer months are coming and if you have a small child then it’s becoming increasingly important to start swimming lessons. With so many drowning incidents happening in young children, we need to make a conscious effort to do better.

However, swim lessons aren’t the end all be all of preventing drowning incidents. You still need to make sure your child is closely supervised during water play to ensure optimal safety. Life jackets or pool floats are a good ideas as well. Making sure they’re actually ready for lessons is important too. Don’t force them if they’re hesitant. If they don’t feel ready for swimming, playing with a water table can be a good way to start enjoying the water instead.

There are so many different schools out there with varying curriculums—YMCA classes, Safesplash, ISR, etc.—make sure you’re choosing ones with certified instructors with teaching styles you agree with. Your child will be well on their way to being a water safety expert.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.