A child’s development consists of many things – from their first word, taking their first step and even their very first swim lesson. Along with the essential skills, teaching your toddler to swim is just as important.
Swimming is an essential activity for any child and it will become a lifelong skill to have, whether that’s in the form of sports, a family vacation or relaxing by your backyard pool.
Sadly, childhood drownings are on the rise – even more so since the start of the pandemic.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to four, so it is crucial to be aware of and proactively utilize water safety tips to help keep your child safe. Once you teach your toddler how to swim, the risk of drowning significantly decreases and your worries can diminish.
What age should my child start swimming lessons?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for all children starting at age one, but you can teach a baby as young as four months. As with all things, children grow and learn at different paces, but it’s important to introduce them to a lot of the basics early on.
There are different advantages to enrolling your child in swim lessons at every stage of childhood.
- 4 Months and Older: Surprisingly, babies can naturally take to water so it’s only fitting you introduce them to water early in life and continue to do so for them to adjust.
- Toddlers: At this age, children are learning to navigate the world and new things they are coming into contact with. They start to become receptive to what they are being taught and it adds to their growth. Teaching a toddler to swim around 2 years old is a common age to get started.
- Preschool and Kindergarten: During this stage of life, children are getting accustomed to a normal routine that involves school and potentially extracurricular activities.
- Early Elementary: Personal interests in hobbies and activities begin to take shape or strengthen throughout this age. It is also a time period where a child starts to evolve more into who they are as an individual.
- Upper Elementary: Even if your child knows the basics, enrolling them in swim lessons can help them swim further and longer, above and underwater. More advanced strokes are typically taught at this age as well, including freestyle, butterfly and breaststroke.
While a parent can enroll their child in swim lessons at any age, many begin around ages three to four as this is when children are becoming most familiar with the water. Toddlers are particularly curious which can lead to potentially dangerous situations, especially around a body of water – so it is best to equip your child with lifesaving water safety skills.
What swimming techniques should they learn?
Encourage your toddler to get comfortable with the water by starting with the basics: blowing bubbles and looking for items in the water.
Additional swimming techniques they should learn from the get-go are properly getting in and out of the pool, going under water, rolling onto and floating on their back, how to tread water and flutter kicks. Some of these techniques can be practiced out-of-the-pool as well, and can even be done during bath time.
How long can it take for my toddler to learn how to swim?
Just like crawling, walking, potty training, reading or learning the piano – every child is different. They have different skill sets, swim experiences, comfort levels, personalities, learning styles and more.
Great swim instructors evaluate each student’s abilities and adjust their teaching methods for that individual child as needed.
At Goldfish Swim School, our classes and curriculum are meant to be fluid and are modified for each child’s needs. We recommend beginning swimmers practice at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more as this will help increase their muscle memory.
What is the fastest way to teach my child to swim?
Attending swim lessons consistently coupled with active practice is the best and quickest way for a toddler to learn how to swim. Our lessons are meant to be fun and educational – in fact, thorough scientific research has gone into how we’ve planned and created the curriculum.
We refer to this as The Science of SwimPlay®, our holistic approach to play-based learning that helps kids develop essential life skills they’ll use to make big waves in the pool, and beyond.
If you are wondering how to teach your toddler to swim the fastest way, scientific studies show that the most optimal way for kids to learn is through guided play.
Guided play provides a solid foundation for emotional and intellectual growth in regards to problem-solving skills, creativity and academic knowledge. This is the same basis for learning how to swim.
How do I keep my toddler safe when learning how to swim?
Swim lessons are actually one of the best ways to keep your child safe as it improves their comfort level in the water and strengthens their swimming capabilities. Here are some important water safety tips that your toddler should follow to keep them safe when learning to swim:
- Designate a Water Guardian: While your child is learning to swim, it’s important to always designate a water guardian whose sole responsibility is to supervise. And when you are in a public setting, do not default to only relying on the lifeguard on-duty. The more pairs of eyes watching over your child, the better.
- Never Let Your Child Swim Alone: Teach your child to always have a buddy in the water and as they get older, they will remember to always have an adult or a peer with them. Consistently review rules together as a family before letting your child enjoy the water, especially when visiting a public pool or body of water. If water is around, make sure someone else is too.
- Use Proper Flotation Devices: Proper flotation devices are a must and can be one of the easiest ways to increase water safety. Be careful not to mistake inflatable toys as life-saving devices. Instead, choose a life jacket that has the Coast Guard seal of approval. Make sure it fits properly as well. If your child’s head or ears slip beneath the life jacket, that means it’s too big and the device won’t be able to work as designed.
What do I do if I have concerns about my child swimming?
It is completely natural for a parent to have hesitations or feel nervous about their child learning to swim. Utilize some or all of these recommendations to ease your concerns:
- Talk to your pediatrician about water safety and drowning prevention. There are many important doctor-parent conversations to have but water safety should be toward the top of the list. You will walk away from this discussion with a deeper understanding and can prioritize drowning prevention.
- Start with swim lessons as they have been proven to significantly decrease the risk of drowning by 88%. In looking for a swim lesson provider, keep in mind the instructor to student ratio. A 4:1 student-instructor ratio ensures your child receives adequate attention, supervision and guidance while also having the opportunity to socialize and mimic the actions of others in the class. Also look for a provider that allows you to watch the lessons so you can see the progress your child is making.
What if my child is a reluctant swimmer?
Some toddlers may be fearful of learning how to swim, but here are some tips for when your child is reluctant to swim:
- Stay Positive: Talk up the benefits of swimming and swim lessons, the instructors and the school. Stay positive about swim class and happily cheer your child on even when you’re both nervous. Hugs and high-fives go a long way to reassure nervous children.
- Commit the Time: Mastering swim skills takes time, and learning how to properly execute skills requires persistence and practice. Keep swim conversations and lessons in their regular routine to help your child gain stronger comfortability with the idea.
- Practice: The more you practice, the more comfortable your child will be in and around the water. Practice kicking, pulling, floats and breathing. Consider carving out time to attend open family swims, too – it’s a fun time to bond with your child and help cement a life skill.
The obvious benefit from swim lessons is learning how to swim safely, but there are additional bonuses such as support of academic performance, development of motor skills, physical exercise and improved confidence.
When teaching your toddler how to swim, remember these basic principles and never forget the most important reason for swim lessons- your child’s safety. Incorporate lessons into your child’s routine to ensure they have the right tools to be a safe swimmer now, and for life.
By Jenny McCuiston, mother of four, Olympic swimming trialist and Founder of Goldfish Swim School,the leading premier learn-to-swim franchise concept spanning 120-plus schools across North America, that uses the Science of SwimPlay® to teach water safety and life skills through play-based learning.