Photo by Liz Labianca
Many new moms wonder when is the right time to start teaching your little ones how to swim, and there are many benefits of swimming class for toddlers. Growing up near the Great Lakes, my childhood summers were spent swimming in inland lakes, and in the often rough waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Learning to swim was not only a fun activity, but absolutely necessary. My children spend even more time in the water than I did since we not only go to the lakes, but our neighborhood has a community pool. Swimming lessons have been a part of their life since their toddler years, along with supervised swim time with family and friends. Since their swimming skills are still developing, they also spend hours wearing life jackets at the lakeshore.
As much as I love the water, I am also nervous having my children around it. Multiple drownings are reported every summer in the lakes in my area, not to mention pools. The CDC reports that “every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger (making it the second leading cause of accidental death of children 1-14 according to the American Red Cross). For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries). These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).”
So when should you start teaching your child to swim? I think children can be introduced to water in infancy by parents. For my kids, it was essential that they learned to be comfortable in the water before they learned to swim. As for formal lessons, BabyCenter’s aquatics consultant, Laura Slane, advocates that children take swim classes with a parent/caretaker until the age of three, when they can better listen and follow directions on their own in a swim class taught by an instructor. Of course, every child learns to swim at their own rate, so maybe you’ll decide to have them start later or they might love it right away.
No matter at what age you think your child is ready, I think it’s really important for every child to know how to swim. The American Red Cross says it’s the best way to reduce incidences of drowning.
Your town probably has some private swim lesson programs you can look at, or you can always see if there is a YMCA in your area.