Published Date: 06/14/21
Does my toddler need swim lessons?
Swimming is an important skill for everyone to develop at some point in their lives, both for their safety and for their enjoyment.
It’s a scary statistic, but among children ages 1-4 years old, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death, and the majority of those incidents occur in residential swimming pools and open water. Teaching your child to swim – and even more importantly, how to get to safety if they end up in the water unsupervised, is paramount.
Swimming lessons can be a great way to do this, especially if you don’t have a pool or you are unable to teach your toddler how to swim yourself.
What are the benefits of swimming lessons for toddlers?
The sooner your child learns how to keep their head above water, the safer they will be around it. While this can most certainly give a parent peace of mind, it’s critical that children never be left unsupervised where a pool or body of water is accessible.
Swimming lessons can give toddlers the skills to bring themselves to the surface of the water, and then flip to their backs and float. This basic skill is one we may think of as innate, but, unlike what movies and TV portray, drowning is often silent and can occur within 30 seconds. A child who does not know how to reach the surface and float will often simply sink to the bottom, inhaling water along the way, before an adult even realizes the child is gone.
Swimming lessons can do more just keep toddlers safe – they can help your child develop physical strength and balance, gross motor skills, social skills when they interact with their peers and their instructor, and self-confidence both in and out of the water.
What should I consider when signing my toddler up for swimming lessons?
There are several factors to consider before you sign your toddler up for swim lessons. These include:
- The health of your child – consider if there are any factors that might make swim lessons particularly challenging for your child
- Your child’s developmental level – if your swimming lessons are not a parent & me program, consider if your child will follow directions from the swimming instructor
- Separation anxiety – toddler separation anxiety comes and goes in phases so consider if your child will even get in the pool with a stranger
- Your schedule – for swimming lessons to be effective, they must be done consistently, so consider if you’re able to commit regularly
- The cost of the swim lessons – make sure the swimming lessons fit into your budget so you can continue them long enough
- Your child’s level of comfortability with the water – if your toddler is fearful of the water, it may be best to wait or ease into it slowly
- The quality of the program – read reviews and ask other parents for recommendations before selecting swimming lessons for your toddler
- The swimming instructor’s credentials – while many people can swim, not everyone is equipped to teach toddlers
What is the best age to start swimming lessons?
According to Healthy Children, most children are ready for swim lessons by the time they are 4 years old. By age four, most children are beyond their separation anxiety phases and can follow the directions of the swimming instructor.
However, you may want to consider starting swimming lessons sooner. Your child likely won’t be swimming laps in toddlerhood, but they can learn basic water survival skills to help keep them safe.
Programs like the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) and Infant Aquatics tout the ability to teach children as young as 6 months to turn themselves to their backs if they find themselves unexpectedly in water.
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These programs are not designed to be fun swimming lessons, but survival skills. And there are small studies that show that when preschoolers have taken swimming lessons, the likelihood of drowning decreases.
It’s important to note that swimming lessons at a young age can give toddlers a false sense of security around the water and this can lead to dangerous, or even deadly, situations. As noted, constant supervision around pools and open bodies of water is crucial to keeping children safe.
Should my toddler take group or private swim lessons?
Private swimming lessons are ideal, as they provide more individual attention and give a child more time to practice during a lesson.
If private swimming lessons are not possible, SwimJim recommends finding a class with a low student-to-instructor ratio, as it allows the instructor to give more attention to each student in the class. For toddlers, more attention may be safer and may be necessary to effectively teach the child.
Determining when your child should learn how to swim is something only a parent can decide. If you do feel like your toddler is ready to make the plunge and reap the benefits of swimming skills, keep in mind those important considerations so that you can feel as confident as your child will in the water!
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