Any season is a good time to enter your youngster in swimming lessons. Most rec centers, health clubs, YMCAs, and schools run lessons year-round. To help you navigate through the available courses, we've put together a basic age-based guide.
12 to 36 Months: Infant and Toddler Lessons
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently reversed its opinion on swimming lessons for toddlers. New evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. In the past, the AAP advised against swimming lessons for this age group because evidence was lacking that lessons prevented drowning or resulted in better swim skills—and there was a concern parents would become less vigilant about supervising a child who had learned some swimming skills.
"Not every child will be ready to learn to swim at the same age," says Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, lead author of the revised pool safety policy. The AAP's new guidance recommends that parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child's:
- frequency of exposure to water
- emotional development
- physical abilities
- certain health concerns related to pool water infections and pool chemicals
"Swimming lessons can be an important part of the overall protection, which should include pool barriers and constant, capable supervision," says Dr. Weiss. "But even advanced swimming skills cannot 'drown-proof' a child of any age. Parents must also closely supervise their children around water and know how to perform CPR. A four-sided fence around the pool is essential."
The AAP does not recommend formal water safety programs for children younger than 1 year of age, pointing out that no scientific study has yet to demonstrate that these classes are effective for reducing drowning risk.