Learning to swim is a vitally important skill for children to learn that not only has the potential to allow for hours of water fun, but more importantly could save their lives. Parents, swim teachers, pediatricians, and other experts cannot seem to agree on the perfect age for all children to learn to swim, but they do agree it is important. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 through 19 years-old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Like many things in life, much of learning to swim depends on the child and the circumstances. There are some important factors to consider when you think about swim instruction for your child.
Consider Your Location
While swimming is an important skill for any child to have, it is even more vital for children that live near a pool or body of water. If a child is going to be near water on a regular basis, earlier swim lessons are a wise idea.
Know Your Child
Just like there is a broad spectrum as far as when kids will reach various milestones, such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, and walking, there is a significant variation as far as when children will be developmentally ready to learn to swim. You want learning to swim to be a positive and fun experience, so watch your child for cues that they are ready to learn. Children that are physically strong, somewhat coordinated, good at following directions, and emotionally ready are good candidates to learn.
Enlist the Help of a Professional
Experts now believe that swim instruction between the ages of 1 and 4 years old has the potential to significantly decrease the risk of drowning. Teaching a toddler to swim may be difficult for a parent that is not experienced in swim instruction. It is important that they are introduced to the water in a positive and safe way to avoid them developing a fear of water at a young age.
Set Realistic Expectations
One series of swim lessons, especially for young children, will not have them swimming laps in the pool. It takes time and practice to develop the necessary muscles, coordination and skill required to be an avid swimmer. Regardless of whether you have enrolled them in swimming lessons in Houston or Boston, be patient and encouraging with your child. The most important things initially are developing a comfort and love of the water.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Research has shown that children who have frequent access to a pool or other body of water will learn to swim much more quickly than those that only swim a few times a month. If you do not have access to a pool, you can ask the instructor for some fun exercises that your child could do at home to help develop skills and strengthen muscles necessary for swimming. If you do have access to a pool, try to spend time in it a few times a week when learning how to swim.
Remember, Safety First!
Even the most skilled swimmers are not immune from accidents, injuries and drowning. Remember to always supervise your children when they are in or near water. Flotation devices are no substitute for adult supervision. In popular infant swim lessons, children are often taught to kick to the side of the pool and yell for help if they fall in. Come up with a set of water safety rules for your family and review them regularly so your children remember them and practice them naturally.
As soon as your child is mobile, the risk of drowning increases greatly. Keep in mind that knowing how to swim is a wonderful skill for a child to have, but no one is ‘drown proof.’ Setting strict rules around the water, enforcing safe practices and teaching life-saving skills are all important in keeping kids as safe as possible!