Swim Lessons for Kids

Question of the Week

Girl jumping into mother's arms in a lake
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Question. We have a pool at home and I want to make sure my kids enjoy the water and are safe. When can I start swim lessons?

Answer. Well, it depends on how old your kids are and what you mean by swimming lessons.

When To Start Swimming Lessons

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend 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.

That advice has changed though. While the AAP still recommends that all children who are four years old and older begin to take swimming lessons, they are no longer against aquatic programs and swimming lessons for younger toddlers and preschoolers between the ages of one to four years old.

That doesn't mean that your younger child who takes swimming lessons will become 'drown-proof' though. 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. They can also help teach parents about how to be safe around the water. However, these types of programs may not decrease your child's risk of drowning and are not a substitute for adult supervision and safety in the water, although some small studies have found that 'some drowning prevention skills can be learned' by these younger children.

What's The Benefit of Early Swim Lessons?

Keep in the mind that the AAP is not going out of their way to say that all children between the ages of one to four years take swim lessons.

They are simply saying that it is okay to take swim lessons at this age if a parent wants to.

Will starting swim lessons early help your child learn to swim faster?

Probably not. Another study, Children's readiness for learning front crawl swimming, showed that whether kids 'started lessons at 2, 3 or 4 years of age,' they learned to swim well at 'approximately the same mean age of 5 1/2 years.'

Learning to Swim is Important

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.'

So have fun in the water, but keep safety in mind at all times. 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. Even with floaties or a life vest, you should learn to practice 'touch supervision', which the AAP describes as a caregiver being 'within an arm's reach or able to touch the swimmer at all times.'

Still, whether you start at 2 or 4 or 6 years, your child should eventually learn to swim.

What To Know About Swim Lessons for Kids

While the AAP doesn't recommend that all infants and toddlers take swimming lessons, they are no longer against it, and they strongly support the idea that all children need to learn how to swim once they are 4 years old or older.




American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Prevention of Drowning. Pediatrics, Jul 2010, 126 (1) 178-185

  • Instruct babysitters about potential pool hazards to young children and about the use of protective devices, such as door alarms and latches. Emphasize the need for constant supervision.
  • Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool. During social gatherings at or near a pool, appoint a "designated watcher" to protect young children from pool accidents. Adults may take turns being the "watcher." When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk.
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the pool area.
  • Do not allow a young child in the pool without an adult.
  • Do not consider young children to be drown proof because they have had swimming lessons. Children must be watched closely while swimming.
  • Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
  • Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Babysitters and other caretakers, such as grandparents and older siblings, should also know CPR.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool. Be sure a telephone is poolside with emergency numbers posted nearby.
  • Remove toys from in and around the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children to the pool.
  • Never prop open the gate to a pool barrier.


American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Prevention of Drowning. Pediatrics. 2010 May 24.

American Academy of Pediatrics Technical Report. Prevention of Drowning. Pediatrics. 2010 May 24.

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Swimming Programs for Infants and Toddlers. PEDIATRICS Vol. 105 No. 4 April 2000, pp. 868-870. (reaffirmed October 1, 2004.)

Blanksby BA, Parker HE, Bradley S, Ong V Children's readiness for learning front crawl swimming. Aust J Sci Med Sport 1995; 27:34-37.

CPSC Document #5097. Backyard Pool Safety Alert.

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