There has been a widespread adoption of strategies to help children learn the essentials of swimming in pools and the ocean. Many programs offer swimming lessons as a way to assist young children. Some programs focus on teaching children how to swim at a very early age so that they can develop swimming skills that will help them enjoy the pool or beach, or swim competitively.
In fact, some studies have hypothesized that early acquisition of swimming skills contributes to better motor control, coordination, and intellectual skills. But for most swimming programs for children, the objective is developing water readiness and adjustment, preparing children to gain useful swim skills at later ages, and ultimately improving water safety.
So, what is the ideal age for children to start their swimming lessons?
There are some programs for children as young as six months, but these are primarily for fun activities to beat the heat and provide parents with water-safety tips. But trainers in the Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council argue that children can start taking lessons at the age of four to five years, and gradually build their competence for the next couple of years.
That said, the American Association of Pediatrics changed their opinion on when children can safely take swim lessons from four-years-old to one-year-old. The decision was made in 2010 following studies showing a reduced risk of poolside accidents among preschoolers who had attended swimming programs.
One such study in the U.S. showed an 88 per cent reduced risk in poolside accidents for children aged one to four years who had attended a swimming program. A similar study in China showed that early swimming programs reduced the risk of poolside accidents by 40 per cent.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit challenging for parents to get their children interested in swimming at a very young age, since the child would not consider it water enjoyment at the time. Actually, parents would have to encourage their children to attend a swimming program at a young age for their own good, because it can be intimidating. However, following the initial hesitation they will come to love swimming.
The ideal time to start your child on a swimming program depends partly on the parent and the child’s interests. If you reside in an area with easy access to pools or water bodies, water readiness should be introduced as early as possible for safety purposes. The teaching style should be encouraging rather than coercive, and include safety skills such as floating on one’s back and controlled breathing.