Child Swimming

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you not begin formal swimming lessons until kids are at least 4 years old. That is the age that children are thought to be 'developmentally ready' for swim lessons. Younger children can have lessons to help them get used to the water, but they should be held by an adult at all times.

Infant and toddler aquatic programs are very popular among parents and kids and are a good way to teach your kids to enjoy being in the water. Parents are children's first teachers. Therefore it is important that parents take an active interest in the child's lesson. Outside of the lesson, the parent plays vital role in educating their child about the importance of learning swimming and water safety skills and the risks associated with the aquatic environment.

Swim lessons for children ages 3 and older are centered on aquatic readiness skills that are geared to a child's age, development level, and individual ability. These classes are usually grouped by both age and skill level. Working in small groups, kids learn simple water-safety rules, breath control, and basic arm and leg movements. As children get older and gain more experience in the water, they tackle more difficult swimming skills.

Whenever you are thinking about your kids and their being in a pool and around water, keep in mind that 'drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury and death in the pediatric age group' and that 'drowning rates are the highest among children ages 1 through 2 years.'

A swimming pool in the yard can be very dangerous for children. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 350 children under five years of age drown each year in swimming pools, many in residential pools. If possible, do not put a swimming pool in your yard until your children are older than 5 years. Supervision is the key word when it comes to pool safety, but supervision combined with a variety of barriers and safety devices - fences, latched gates, locked doors, pool covers and more - goes even further toward drowning prevention.

Following are some drowning prevention tips:

  • Never leave a child unattended in the water or pool area for any reason.
  • Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool.
  • Talk with baby-sitters about pool safety, supervision and drowning prevention.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • When children are jumping off a diving board, set some ground rules. Such as, only one person diving at a time, wait in line, do not jump until the last diver has gotten out of the water, and do not jump towards the side of the pool.
  • Remember that swim lessons do not 'drown-proof' younger kids and that they should always be supervised in the water, whether or not they know how to swim.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,