Your baby is 6 months old. Is that too early for swim lessons? How can a parent safely introduce their baby to the joys of the water? How can you help your child learn about swimming as they grow older?
As reported by Pediatrics.com, the American Academy of Pediatrics once recommended that formal swimming lessons not be introduced until the kids are at least 4 years old. The reasoning was that children were developmentally ready by that age. That advice has changed, though. The age 4 is still suggested for swim lessons, but aquatic programs and lessons designed to introduce younger children to the water are encouraged.
Introduction can start early. Starting a toddler in the water can begin when they are as young as 6 months. This is the time to teach the child that the water is fun. The parent should always be holding the child, but take the baby into the water and gently bobbing them to let them feel the water. Model blowing bubbles, so the child can learn to not swallow water, while still getting his face wet. Be mindful that some children will be naturally comfortable in the water, others may hesitate – don’t push, and allow the hesitant child to go more slowly. For more information, here are some great articles on baby swimming lessons:
- Is my child ready for swim lessons?
- Baby & Toddler Swim Lessons – In Your Own Pool
- How to Teach Swim Lessons for Kids
After a child is one year old, parents have a variety of options to help the child learn the joys of the water. Think of it as a gradual progression, with the developmental growth of the child matched by how much the parents can do with them, and how well the child can absorb lessons:
- 2 to 3 years old. A child will be more active at this age, but will still need to be held at all times in the water. Teach the child by activities – throw a ball a short way and encourage them to reach for it, which models a swimming motion. Show them how to blow bubbles, and laugh a lot so they will see that even being a little underwater is fun. Don’t leave toys in the pool – the more adventurous child might be tempted to reach for them.
- 4 to 5 years old. Formal swim lessons can be introduced by this age. The parents can continue to work with the child – show them how to float, and submerge their head under the water for a few seconds. Show them how to make the transition from standing to swimming, how to glide through the water, how to coordinate kicking with arm movements. The parent should still be keeping the child within reach. This is a good age to begin talking about safety rules like “no running at the pool.”
- 6 years and up. Things should be progressing by this age – the child will be able to hold their breath underwater for a time, swim under the water, and retrieve objects. The parent can begin to show the child the child the various swimming strokes. Try modeling the strokes – children will quickly get the idea. While the parent doesn’t need to keep the child within arms reach at this age, they will still need to be constantly supervised. Remind your child that diving is only done when an adult is present, and in deep water.
Seeing your child begin to understand how much fun the water is – now that’s a fun moment! Watching them treat the water with respect, by not running at poolside – brings a real satisfaction, knowing that Mom and Dad have prepared their child to safely enjoy a lifetime of water fun.
Patricia Hogenes has spent so much time out at her family pool with the kids that she feels like it’s her real home. Writing freelance puts her on familiar ground – there aren’t many aspects of pool safety and maintenance she hasn’t learned about.
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