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When Should You Teach Your Child to Swim?

Summer is coming and that means your family might be spending some time near the water, whether it’s a swimming pool, a river, the ocean, a lake, whatever’s convenient to you.

Are your children good swimmers yet?

Swimming is something I consider to be a vital skill for children even if you and everyone in your family does not have a swimming pool available. Just because you don’t have easy access now doesn’t mean your kids never will, and it’s good for them to be able to cope if they get a chance to go swimming.

How Young is Too Young for Swimming Lessons?

I’m all for teaching kids of any age to swim. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as too young. And it would appear that National Institutes of Health agrees with me. Despite fears that swimming lessons for very young children (ages 1-4) increases the odds of drowning, a study has shown that this isn’t the case.

With a very active toddler and inlaws with a backyard swimming pool, you have no idea how comforting this is to me. Sweet little rascal is going to learn to swim as soon as possible.

It’s important to keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t guarantee your child won’t ever drown. In fact, the NIH report found that many of the older kids who drowned were in fact fairly skilled swimmers. Swimming lessons still appeared to help limit drownings, but they were not a guarantee.

Always Be Vigilant Near Water

It doesn’t matter how well your kids swim, you should always be careful when your family is around a body of water that someone could drown in. Younger kids should have one adult whose sole responsibility is to know where that child is and what he or she is doing at all times.

No leaving the area without assigning another responsible adult to keep watch.

You’ll still need someone watching older kids, as accidents can happen. Kids who are confident in the water are likely to enjoy some horseplay or test their limits.

My oldest tests her limits all the time when we go swimming. Sometimes she needs a little help.

Use Proper Water Safety Gear

This is one area where I’ve had to disagree with my inlaws a few times. They always want my kids to wear floaties on their arms.

These are a really bad idea.

Floaties give kids who can’t swim the idea that they’ll be just fine in the water. They don’t realize how much they’re relying on them.

Worse, floaties can come off with little warning. Kid arms are often skinny things, and the floaties just don’t stay on that well when the kids get to playing a little rough.

I’ve been told that they also teach bad swimming habits. I’ve talked to swim instructors who really hate floaties.

If you need to put your child in something to help him or her stay afloat in the water, use proper floatation gear such as a life vest. These still present the problem of letting a child who can’t swim feel more comfortable in the water, but a properly fitting life vest isn’t going to just pop off. They’re much safer, but don’t relax your vigilance.

Know How to Swim Yourself

If you can’t swim, there’s only so much you can do if one of your kids needs help in the water. And if you can swim, make sure to take the time to build up your endurance. Even a small child is very hard to carry through the water when you have to swim. After all, both of you need your heads out of the water regularly, possibly constantly if the child is not comfortable holding his or her breath underwater.

Take some time throughout the swimming season and build up your swimming skills. It’s great exercise and has a shot at being a benefit to your family. Hopefully by just making it so that your kids can have a little more fun in the water, but it’s nice to have a shot at being able to help someone struggling.

CPR lessons are a good idea too. CPR is one of those skills you hope you never need, but if it comes up necessary you’ll be extremely grateful you took the time to learn it.