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Is my child ready for swim lessons?

Child on kickboard in pool with swim lesson instructor

If you’re here, you obviously know learning how to swim is an important skill.

I could give you the sales pitch about how it’s never too early to start your baby in swim lessons and gladly take your money – but I’m NOT going to do that.

Instead, let me tell you what I do know:

“Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in US children 1 to 4 years of age and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among US children and adolescents 5 to 19 years of age.” American Academy of Pediatrics

The report by the American Academy of Pediatrics explains the above data. Most infants who drown do so in a bathtub, bucket, or cooler full of melted ice. Children 1 to 4 years old are most often drowning in swimming pools.

That means swim lessons have no real benefit to children before 12 months of age.

However, swim lessons can make a huge difference after the child turns one.

“Participation in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in the 1- to 4-year-old children…” – JAMA Pediatrics “Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood”

The American Academy of Pediatrics was formerly opposed to swim lessons before the age of 4, but has recently announced they are no longer opposed to swim lessons for children older than 1. That still isn’t a shining endorsement for starting lessons that young.

As a swim instructor, I’ve seen many children able to swim at 3 years old. I’ve also held many screaming two-year-olds that aren’t ready for swim lessons. They lack the motor skills and understanding that they are safe in my arms. There is the occasional two-year-old who can swim, but mom and dad have worked an incredible amount of time to make that happen at home.

Regardless, I know parents want to make their own choices so here’s a breakdown of the 3 different lesson styles available:

1) Infant Self Rescue

Infant self rescue is a controversial method. There is no research to support that this method is effective in preventing drowning. Yuma does not currently have any certified providers for this service.

There are really cool videos of infants falling into the water and floating until an adult comes to save them and it seems like a great program. However, I caution you as a parent. In this program children receive positive reinforcement for proper positioning. The positive reinforcement is being allowed to breathe.

If you’re allowing someone to perform this method with your child, please ask for their credentials. These classes when properly scheduled take five 10 minute lessons per week for 6-8 weeks.

We would gladly make a referral (and even offer to hire someone) if we had someone in our service area credentialed to provide this service. Someone without this credential can end up injuring your child, having them get excess water and air in their stomach and lungs.

Check out this video for some more details:

2) Baby & Me / Toddler & Me

Some programs start these programs between 4-6 months in age. Parents must get in the water with the child and instructor. The lessons focus on breath work, holding on to the edge of the pool and general comfort in the water. There are several Yuma programs that offer this service at 6 months of age.

Yuma Mobile Swim does not offer these until a child is at least 12 months old (the age recommended by the American Pediatric Academy) and even then we recommend you only take a couple of these per summer until your child turns three. Our instructors can teach you the basics in a couple of lessons and then you can work with your child at home until they’re ready for swim lessons.

3) Independent Swim Lessons

Once a child is 3 years old, they’ll be ready to start taking real swim lessons that teach them how to swim on their own. You can help them prepare for swim lessons at home.

In these classes, it often seems like the children might just be playing with toys and participating in games, but majority of these activities breakdown the swimming technique into smaller bits children can master.

If your family is ready for swim lessons, you can find out more information about our program here.

Still have questions? Leave us a comment below and we’ll reply!

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