When the weather heats up, many parts wonder how soon they can you expose their baby or toddler to a pool or the ocean. Or when they should teach them how to swim. Given the risk of drowning, probably sooner than you think. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children over one year old learn to swim. More specifically, they recommend that children should learn basic swim skills: entering the water, coming to the surface, turning around, propelling through the water for at least 25 yards and being able to exit the water. Note these are not skills that will come at year one. Most children can swim well around 5-6 years of age. You should never submerge a child under three – an infant can drown in an inch or two of water in less than 30 seconds, so it’s imperative to be very aware anytime your child is in or near water.
Some children won’t show interest in pool time – and that’s OK. A study on children’s readiness for swimming showed that whether children started their lessons at two, three or four years old they all learned how to swim at about the same time, so if your little one isn’t into learning how to swim, stick with play time in the water.
Conversely, you can start even before age one getting your child accustomed to water via infant aquatic classes (most parents and children love them!). Parent-child water play activities (pictured below) are also great for getting little ones comfortable and excited about being in the water. That said, again, it’s important to note that no matter when you start exposing your child to the water or when you start swim lessons, nothing is a replacement for constant supervision while children are around water. Always opt for classes that include a parent before the age of four and certified instructors who can perform first aid and CPR.
In general swim classes before the age of four will be mostly focused on getting babies/toddlers comfortable with being in the water. Once a child hits age four they can begin more formal swim lessons, which are crucial, according to AAP, in order to teach water safety skills.