At what age should you teach your little one to swim? The age of four is considered to be when a child is developmentally able to stay properly afloat, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t start with safety, swimming-readiness and water games before then. Here are some guidelines:
6 Months to 1 Year
Introduce your child to the water – join a class that’s about getting comfortable in the water and having fun, or enjoy the pool at home together. Show your baby how to splash, bob around and play games with you in the water. Keep baby in your arms at all times, and don’t let your little one go under – they can swallow a large amount of water at this age. Put a swimming nappy on your baby to stop any accidents leaking into the pool, and make sure that a home pool is completely fenced. Keep your phone nearby.
2 to 3 Years
By now your little one is more curious and active in the water, but you still need to hold your toddler. At this age, toddlers can play games that use leg-kicking, arm movements and include floating while supported on their backs or stomachs. Teach your child to blow bubbles in the water – this teaches little ones how to get their faces wet without swallowing water. Even though toddlers are full of confidence, don’t let them out of your sight for a moment! Make sure that the pool gate’s lock is out of reach, and firmly shut when you aren’t around. Also, don’t bank on air-filled bathing suits or water-wings.
4 to 5 Years
This is the age for formal swimming lessons. If your child hasn’t had previous water experience, start with a programme to get him or her comfortable. Swimming classes teach children how:
- to float on their own
- go from a standing to a swimming position independently
- to submerge their heads under the water for five to ten seconds
- to glide through the water and use coordinated arm and kicking movements
- to use water safety and water skills
For safety, it helps to make sure your pool has a line separating the deep and shallow ends, and never assume another adult is watching.
Remember to be patient as your child may take to water like a fish one day and be afraid the next – and be extra vigilant at the beach, as the conditions are very different to the swimming pool.