Read This Before You Teach Your Child to Swim

Swimming is a great activity to share with your children. It’s a low-impact exercise they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. It may even protect them from drowning or help them to save someone else in case of an emergency.

Most experts believe that children need to be about 5 years old in order to have the neuromuscular development to swim. Of course, younger children can still enjoy playing in the water while they’re waiting.

You can hire a private coach, sign up for community classes, or teach your child yourself if you’re a capable swimmer. Whether you’re going to play the instructor or bring in a professional, take a look at these age-by-age tips for helping your child to take to the water.

Tips for Children Under 5:

  1. Hold on. Babies and toddlers need to be held at all times when they’re in the water. As they feel safe and grow stronger, you can encourage them to move their arms, kick their legs, and float on their back or stomach.
  2. Splash around. Consider this playtime. Take turns gently splashing water at each other and sing songs. If you’re using toys, be sure to put them away afterwards to remove temptation when you’re not around.
  3. Stay above water. Children under 3 are prone to swallowing too much water, which can cause nausea and other issues. Let them get used to getting their face wet but avoid submerging them.
  4. Join a group. Water classes for small children can be safe if you have realistic expectations. Think of it as a time to bond and move around.

Tips for Children 5 and Older:

  1. Stay within reach. The American Red Cross advises against swimming solo because even the fittest athletes can run into trouble. When you’re starting out, make sure you or an instructor are in the water and close by. At any age, create a rule that they need an adult present if they want to swim.
  2. Build up gradually. Over time, your child will probably be able to stay underwater longer and master different strokes. Be patient and let them set the pace.
  3. Focus on kicking. Swimming is mostly about the legs. Teach them to straighten their legs and kick with control. Practice with a kickboard or by holding onto the sides of a pool.
  4. Keep it fun. Drills can be boring. Mix it up with a variety of activities like races and contests or playing with noodles and dive sticks.

Tips for Any Age:

  1. Learn CPR. Knowing CPR and other life saving techniques will prepare you for emergencies. Contact your local Red Cross or American Heart Association to find a child and baby CPR class near you.
  2. Buy life vests. Ensure you and your child understand the difference between inflatable toys and US Coast Guard Certified life jackets. Water wings and other toys are likely to deflate and slip off, and they offer no protection from drowning.
  3. Fence in the pool. Protect children and small animals by enclosing your pool. It’s the law in many jurisdictions. Check that your fencing is at least four feet high and has a self-latching gate that a child can’t reach.
  4. Maintain proper equipment. Proper safety and rescue equipment can also make your pool more secure for you and your family. Stock up on items like a reaching pole and first-aid kit and store them near your pool.

Teaching your child about swimming and water safety will help them to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. They’ll grow up happier and healthier, and you’ll have an enriching activity that you can share.

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