When Should Your Child Learn to Swim?

Child swim lessons
Image via Mindi Stavish

As summer approaches, I have started to research the cost of swim lessons for my three boys. I haven't enrolled them in formal swim lessons since my middle child was a baby.  He is now five.  My seven-year-old is approaching the age where he will start to be invited to friends' houses and pool parties.  Unfortunately as a child, I never learned how to swim and turned down many invitations due to fear and embarrassment. I do not want to hold my children back from experiencing and creating summer childhood memories.  Not only that, but it is my responsibility as a parent to keep my child as safe as possible.

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2010, nearly 14,000 Americans age 19 and younger drowned. Forty percent of those cases were among children ages 1 to 4, and at least half of those deaths occurred in swimming pools.  So I, like every other parent, raised the question “When is the best time to start formal swim lessons?”   Many places that offer child swim classes start as young as 6 months of age.  These classes are great for helping a child comfortable in the water at a young age.  However, children do not become competent swimmers until six and seven years old.  

{ MORE: Positional Asphyxia: What You Need to Know }

Children under this age still gain benefits from swim classes, as they learn how to build the foundational skills to become competent swimmers.  So far I have researched two swim schools in my local area.  At each school, I met with a school instructor and toured the facility.  Questions I considered were:

  • Class size and level of supervision
  • Water temperature
  • Teaching techniques and philosophy
  • Presence of a lifeguard during lessons

But standard, group swimming lessons aren't the only option. I also researched Infant Swimming Resource (ISR). You've probably seen the videos, like the one shared by the Today Show recently. 

ISR is a national organization, that offers infant and young child survival swimming lessons.  ISR is a product of 45 years of research and has delivered more than 8,000,000 ISR lessons and saved more than 800 lives.  ISR lessons are customized one-on-one lessons that teach an infant to roll onto his or her back and float, rest, and breathe, maintaining this position in order to survive until a rescue occurs.  Children 1 to 6-years old learn the full ISR sequence of swimming, until they need air, rotating onto their back to float, then rolling back to the front to continue swimming.  They are taught to repeat this sequence until they reach safety.  Although much more intense, the ISR system has a huge online presence and following.  

{ MORE: Dry and Secondary Drowning: What Parents Need to Know }

When researching swim lessons for your child, be sure to do the work ahead of time and support your child as much as they need.  

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At what age did you enroll your child in swim lessons?  How did it go at that age?  

 

What do you think?

When Should Your Child Learn to Swim?

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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2 comments

  1. Rachel says:

    We’ve had both our boys (1.5 & 3.5) in lessons since January in the hopes that they would be comfortable in the water come summer time. We’re just doing regular parent-child lessons for enjoyment purposes, but if we lived in an area, like Florida, where water was more ubiquitous, I would definitely be up for putting them in ISR.

  2. catnick says:

    As a swim instructor thanks for writing this! Soany people wait so long to get lessons for their kids and it leaves them afraid of the water or hard to teach because their bad habits are cemented in. The only thing I disagree with is that kids can’t be competent until 6 or 7, we have students doing breaststroke by 5 if they started early.

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