When you’re a parent, it seems like there is a never-ending list of things to think about and, more specifically, worry about. One important area to think about is water safety.
Accidental drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children between the ages of one and four. The risk of a child drowning can be even higher in a home with a pool, but a young child can drown in a tub or a toilet.
Parents should learn and practice water safety, and it’s often advised that children, even very young children, receive swim lessons.
It can be intimidating to think about putting your baby in the water for a swim lesson, and the following are some things to know.
What’s the Right Age To Start Your Child with Swim Lessons?
Experts say there’s never a time when a child is too young to begin swimming lessons.
Getting a baby in the pool doesn’t mean they’re really going to learn how to swim nor that they’ll remember what happens during those classes. What it does mean is that your baby will start getting used to the water at an early age.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends starting kids with swim lessons when they’re one. Once a child reaches four, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children begin swim lessons.
Beyond helping a young child be comfortable in the water, there are other benefits of early swim lessons as well. For example, baby swim lessons may help them with their balance and coordination, build muscle, and it may help improve their sleep quality.
Aquatic programs for babies and toddlers can help not just the child, but they have benefits for parents. For example, parents can learn more about being safe around water, but it’s important to remember there is no swim lesson that replaces supervision and water safety.
The starting point for most children, and especially babies and toddlers, is typically a parent-child class. A parent-child class is something you can do at your local YMCA or community center and they’re not too intensive or in-depth. The classes are usually around 30 minutes long and last for a few weeks.
If you’re doing a parent-child class with a very young child, you may just do things like holding them in the water or sprinkling them with water on their heads.
If you have a toddler, you might do more interactive things like singing and learning to kick.
Choosing An Aquatics or Swim Program
When you are choosing an aquatics program or swim lessons for a child of any age, what should you look for?
If your child is older, you want to find a class that not only teaches the technicalities such as swim strokes but also water survival skills. For example, it’s important to find a class where children learn how
to get back to the water surface when they’re underwater, propel themselves forward and get out of the water safely.
Choose a class with qualified instructors who are trained and certified by national organizations. During swim lessons, there also needs to be a lifeguard on duty with First Aid and CPR certifications.
Before you decide on a specific class, you may want to ask how much of the focus is on general good water safety habits.
Children need to learn how to handle a situation where they may be in the water unexpectedly, and for older children, a swim class may include instruction on what to do if they see someone else struggling in the water.
If you aren’t sure what program will be a good fit for you and your child, you can ask if you can observe a class first. This might shed more light on the quality of the program. For example, does the class seem like it’s a lot of waiting in line for a turn versus personalized instruction?
When choosing a class for a child under four, you should ensure the water is kept warm because young children are at a greater risk of hypothermia. You should also ensure the water is kept clean because babies and young children are more likely to swallow water, and you want a class with what’s called touch supervision. This means that an adult is always within arm’s length for lessons involving younger children.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on lessons you can check with your local government because they’ll often offer free or low-cost programs.