What age can babies swim?

Table of Contents

Your baby

Frequently-Asked Questions

BrillBaby talked to qualified baby-swim instructor Nicole Arnulphy and pediatrician Elsie Lim to answer your most pressing questions about infant swimming.

1. What are the main benefits of infant swimming?

NA: Infant swimming is an excellent way to start your child early along the path to becoming water safe, as well as gaining this important life skill. It’s also a great chance for bonding between a baby and her parents.

2. How many times per week should I take my baby swimming, and for how long each time?

NA: As many times as possible! As for how long, it really depends on the child – until he gets either cold or bored.

3. What is the best age to start swimming lessons?

EL: When it comes to using a swimming pool, I recommend waiting until after the baby’s first set of immunizations, at the age of two months.

4. How long do I need to wait after feeding or nursing my baby to take her swimming?

EL: Wait around an hour and a half to two hours.

5. Up to what age do babies automatically hold their breath underwater?

NA: Until about 6 months . But even after that age, a baby will not try to breathe once she is under the water. So you just have to get your baby to hold her breath as she is about to go under. To do this, blow on her face hard, right before putting her under.

6. What submersion techniques do you recommend?

NA: We tell the baby that he is going under , blow on his face hard, then gently put him under. It is good to go under with your baby, as he may keep his eyes open and be able to see you. Moving your baby through the water is also beneficial. It is best to bring your child to a lesson so you can have a teacher demonstrate how to do this properly.

7. Should I take my baby swimming and/or make her go underwater even if she cries?

NA: We don’t want to terrorize the child, but at the same time, we do want to help her feel comfortable in the water.

8. Do you approve of flotation devices?

NA: Yes – to a limited degree. The child should not become dependent to the point where he is upset if he doesn’t have them. On the plus side, flotation devices give children some added independence, which can help to expand their swimming experience.

9. There’s nowhere for me to take my baby swimming in winter. Might he forget everything he’s learned?

NA: Naturally, it’s better to keep going through the winter than to stop. But the effect of stopping really depends on the child. Some forget some stuff, some forget everything, and for some, it’s like there was never a break.

10. What temperature does the water need to be?

NA: For babies, 30-31 degrees C (86-88 degrees F) is an appropriate temperature; warmer if the air is cold.

11. Is regular sunscreen safe for babies?

EL: It is preferable to use a sunscreen specially formulated for babies.

12. I’ve heard that chlorine is bad for babies’ respiratory health, especially when used in indoor pools. When should I be worried?

EL: As long as your child has no specific allergies or respiratory problems, and you do not stay in a chlorinated indoor pool for more than half an hour, she should be fine.

13. How can I reduce the risk of my child getting an ear infection?

EL: Make sure you dry his ears when you get out of the water. Outer ear infections can be brought on by water left in the ear causing a skin infection.

14. When will my child be able to swim unaided?

NA: Once your child is comfortable and confident in the water, she will need the strength to breathe on her own. Some children manage this as young as two and a half, but more often it is after they are three.

Submerging your baby the correct way

Submerging your baby the correct way

With the weather warming up and more and more parents venturing to the pool to cool off and have a bit of fun with their little ones we thought it would be a good time to go over the technical side of submerging children under the age of three.

It is extremely important that parents are fully aware of the dangers of submerging babies that have not been conditioned to submerge correctly. Not only will you end up having a child that will have a fear of swimming or the water but your are also running the risk of secondary drowning (www.m.webmd.com/children/features) and or Hyponatremia/water intoxication (m.pediatrics.aappublications.org)

Without waiting until your baby is conditioned to submerge by placing them underwater their air way will be open and the water that enters the mouth will go straight into the stomach and lungs. Most babies under the age of one will not complain if they are being submerged incorrectly which make this age group extremely dangerous.

At Aquatots we fully condition our babies to submerge and below are our tips and tricks so you can also have a happy and safe time in the water with your baby.

Up until the age of three years old your baby has a reflex that we use for submerging. The reflex we use to condition the babies is a falling reflex, when your baby shuts their eyes their epiglottis (throat) will close over as well. To teach your baby to use this reflex on cue we add the words 1,2,3 under and engage the baby’s reflex. With enough practice you will find your baby will hear the words 1,2,3 under and will shut their eyes on cue and that is when they are ready to submerge.

To condition your baby to engage this reflex on cue use a wet hand, wash cloth or a small amount of water in a bucket or cup. Use the cue 1,2,3 under and gently wipe or pour the water over your babies face. Eventually your baby will hear the words and will shut their eyes on cue. This conditioning can be started from birth.

It is important you allow your baby to learn the cue and engage the reflex before you attempt submerging. Waiting until your baby is ready will mean the outcome will be a comfortable relaxed swimmer.

Once your baby has learnt the verbal cue it is time to move onto submerging. Keep in mind that your baby does have two cues. The verbal (1,2,3 under) and a physical cue, which is a small lift on the word under. You must hold your child horizontal in the water as a vertical submersion will push the water up their nose (this stings). Move with your baby; ensure you can see their face, and use the verbal cue, lift on the word under and if your babies eyes are shut they are ready to submerge. Focus on your babies eyes not their mouth. If they eyes are closed the airway will be as well so even if their mouth is open the water can not get passed the throat.

At this point you will also need to be reading your babies face and body language to ensure they are relaxed and ready for the submersion. If your babies body seems tight or they are straining to keep their head up or if they are saying or making no sounds or gestures please DO NOT submerge. Allow your baby to ease in and become relaxed with what you are about to do. All your movements when submerging your baby must be smooth and controlled. Try to use natural movement and not force your child through the water. Babies under the age of three do not have enough neck strength to hold their head forward against the strength of the water so when forcing or pushing through the head will tip back and the water will go up their nose (this stings). Fast and sudden movements also tend to startle and frighten babies. When a baby is startled they will throw their arms outwards and take a breath in. If this happens underwater your baby will not only be shocked and unhappy but they will have had a big gulp of water. Making your movements gentle and smooth will be paramount to your babies enjoyment of their time under the water.

The main aim of your submersions will be for you as the parent or guardian to relax and allow your baby to submerge when they are comfortable and ready. The end result will ensure your baby will have maximum enjoyment above and under the water.

If you have any questions on submerging your baby please feel free to contact us

Happy and safe swimming

Alena Sarri Manager Aquatots Swim School

(02) 61620507

Swimming is as Aussie as a beer and a pie at the footy – but how early is too early for baby to learn to swim?

Ask yourself, would you be gullible enough to sign up for a course titled ‘Teach Your Baby to Count Cards and Beat The Casinos’? Or ‘Teach Your Baby Aikido’?

So why do so many of us sign up for ‘Teach Your Baby to Swim’ classes when babies are about as good at swimming as you are at sleeping inside your wife’s stomach?

I went to one of my son’s first baby swimming lessons and, while it sure was something to see all those newborn babies bobbing in the water, and the acoustics of the indoor pool magnified all the screaming magnificently, I was left with just one big, gnawing question: how much are we paying for this? Because I could stand in the pool and smile at him for free.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) used to agree with me, advising against teaching babies and toddlers to swim. But it reversed that position in 2010, citing studies that found children under the age of four who’ve had some kind of swimming training are less likely to drown. Fair payoff.

The AAP now says children aged one to four can benefit from learning to handle themselves in the water, but it still does not recommend any formal water-safety program for babies under the age of one.

Clearly, I’m not an expert. And plenty of people who are will tell you it’s not only a good idea to teach newborns to swim, but vital. In Australia, we like to chuck them in as early as possible, and you’ll find plenty of support for the idea on sites like bubhub.com.au.

They’ve got an intriguing list of basic principles for bubs, like water familiarisation, learning breath control, submersion, free floating, propulsion and breathing.

I reckon I’ve got ‘submersion’ and ‘water familiarisation’ covered, because we own a bath, but the only baby I’ve seen working out the propulsion part was on the cover of Nirvana’s enduring classic, Nevermind.

I’m certainly not going to argue with the great, and very shouty, swimming coach Laurie Lawrence, though, who tells us that “the learn-to-swim process should start at birth” because babies are like little sponges (soaking up information, and hopefully not pool water).

And that “after being contained, protected and immersed in a watery environment for nine months the new baby is ready to learn” – which makes me wonder why we’re not all born with gills.

Lawrence, who has been working in the infant learn-to-swim area for more than three decades, does admit what I thought was a particularly relevant point, which is that “children do not have the fine motor skills to perform the correct freestyle action until the age of four.”

Is it just me, or would that make, say, four a good age to start swimming lessons?

Lawrence, however, says babies can be independently mobile in the water well before that age, using primitive movements and a “dolphin-like wriggle” to propel themselves.

All of which makes me realise that I may have pulled my son out of his baby swimming lessons too soon, and that just because it looked like they were as effective as teaching piano to a tortoise, it doesn’t mean they were.

So,I’m ready to accept that I was wrong. It’s time to get educated.

Where, and when, should you start?

Not surprisingly, you can use the bath to get your baby used to the water – experts call this ’water familiarisation’.

As Lawrence puts it, babies learn through having their senses stimulated. The bath should be a place of fun, enjoyment and learning, so be sure to provide plenty of cuddling, playing and communicating opportunities.

Newborns have no fear of water, apparently (although they sure scream when you put them in it sometimes), which means they should be happy to take part in the conditioning process that will prepare them for their first out-of-womb immersion experience.

Conditioning is a ‘stimulus response method’ – like clicker training for a dog, you’re teaching your baby to respond a certain way when you do a particular thing. In this case, you’d be teaching a baby to hold its breath in response to a verbal trigger. Using this method you can, apparently, teach your baby breath control on command.

If you practice regularly in the bath, your child should be ready for a ‘trauma-free submersion’ by four months of age. Meaning you can put them under and they won’t just inhale the bath water.

You know we hate saying “don’t try this at home” – after all what dad doesn’t love a good DIY project? But, if you are going to attempt to DIY this, we recommend you read up very carefully at Lawrence’s swimming school website – he offers 13 modules to give you the tools to help make your child’s swimming lessons both fun and effective.

Ages and stages

As with all things developmental, when it comes to babies, there will be certain activities they can and can’t do – and all babies develop on different timelines, yada yada.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a general run-down on what swimming lessons can teach a baby to do at each stage.

Four to eight months: Babies can submerge, free float, back float, grip and kick. (To be fair, even rocks can ‘submerge’, aka ‘sink’).

Eight to 12 months: Your increasingly bouncy but immobile child can now free float long distances, and pull up independently on a shallow ledge and will start turning around in the water.

12 to 18 months: Children can swim short distances unaided, turn unaided to an adult, and turn unaided to a ledge.

18 to 24 months: Children start being able to swim longer distances, turn unaided and even climb out of the pool, swim independently around adults, and pick up rings off the bottom of the pool.

Two to three years: By now, chatty little children can kick using a kickboard, float on their backs independently, and swim and breathe independently.

Three to four years: At this stage children begin to gain better control over their body movements, and will refine their swimming skills and start learning freestyle.

Just do it

In the final analysis, no matter how unlikely it may seem, the expert opinion seems to be that you can teach babies to ‘swim’ from a very young age, and there’s no arguing that even teaching them to float as young as possible is a good idea.

This is Australia; there’s an awful lot of water around the place when you live on an island, and there’s a backyard pool in 12 per cent of homes (even if you don’t have one, your family or friends likely do).

We also used to be quite good at swimming in the Olympics, and we all have a responsibility to bring up a Kieren Perkins or a Susie O’Neill if we can.

It’s certainly not in dispute that babies absolutely love the lessons and seem to have a great time splashing about and staring into the middle distance.

It’s a great way to meet other dads too who seem to line up to finally do a fun/action based activity with the baby without your missus losing the rag that “he’s too young for that” or “you’re over stimulating him“.

And when the time does come to learn freestyle, bub will at least be comfortable in the water.

A mother is fighting back after a video of her infant daughter struggling as she learns to swim has drawn criticism from those thinking the method is extreme.

Keri Morrison is determined to have her young daughter, Josie, learn to swim after her 2 1/2-year-old son, Jake, accidentally drowned three years ago. In the video, the baby is enticed by an adult holding a tiny sandal and flops face-first into the water before righting herself by flipping around to her back.

Mom fights critics for controversial toddler swimming lessons

May 9, 201603:14

“You’re seeing a 6-month-old sitting on the steps playing, which can be a real life situation,” Morrison said on TODAY Monday. “She falls in and she turns over and saves herself and floats for over a minute and a half. I don’t see how there could be anything negative about that.”

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

RELATED: Water babies! Would you let your tot try this survival swimming program?

The technique is called Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) and teaches children as young as 6 months old how to “self-rescue.” Babies are taught in 10-minute sessions, five days a week for four to six weeks to learn ISR. Morrison was adamant about her daughter learning as early as possible after the tragic death of their son on Nov. 30, 2013. He slipped out a back door in the dark and fell off a dock in Orlando.

“I wish I could go back in time and put my son in these lessons,” Morrison said. “I’m pretty confident that he would be here, and as a parent, I felt like I failed my son, and I was just determined that was not going to happen with my daughters.”

‘Self-rescue’ program teaches tots to survive in water

June 26, 201403:55

Keri and her husband, Roarke, have set up a foundation in memory of their son called Live Like Jake, which brings awareness to drowning prevention and provides scholarships for swim lessons to those who can’t afford them.

RELATED: Special classes teach infants to swim

Children over the age of 1 be at a lower risk of drowning if they’ve had some formal swimming instruction, but there is no evidence that it can prevent drowning in younger babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Josie is now 1 and has taken to the water like a natural.

“Do I expect my daughter at that young of an age to be alone near the water? No, but the layers of protection can fail,” Morrison said. “Supervision failed. It failed with my son, and it can happen, and I just want my daughters to be as safe as possible.”

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

  • According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies can begin swimming lessons at one year old. Previously, the organization had advised against swim lessons for kids under the age of 4.
  • The new guideline is part of the AAP’s updated advice for drowning prevention. Drowning is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 19.
  • The AAP also recommends swimming within arms’ length of children, creating barriers like fencing around pools and spas, and supervising kids at all times when they’re around water.

As your baby becomes a toddler, baby-proofing the house becomes more important than ever. And this is especially true when you head outdoors this summer to hit the beach or pool. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children ages one to four.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated its drowning-prevention guidelines, noting that kids can now start swimming lessons at one year old, which is a change from their previous recommendations. Keep reading to learn why the AAP revised their guidelines, plus more water safety tips for babies.

Why the AAP changed its mind on the best time to start swimming lessons.

Previously, the AAP cautioned against swimming lessons for those under the age of four because kids that young can’t really learn to swim (though they can be taught how to float and blow bubbles). Plus, there was concern that parents would become less vigilant about supervising a child who had taken swim lessons.

More Swim Safety

In the new report, “the AAP reinforces its existing recommendation that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim, but the AAP is now more open toward classes for younger children.”

The guidelines also state: “New evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.”

What you can expect your child to learn at baby swimming lessons.

“It’s all about building confidence by teaching kids to feel comfortable in the water,” says Emily Leaman, co-founder and COO of Fitness Alive Philly, which starts classes for babies as young as five months. “In our experience, kids learn the actual mechanics of swimming more quickly if they are confident first. A water-confident child is also less likely to panic in an emergency situation.”

More Swim Safety

What does a one to three-year-old learn in swim class? “At the toddler age, kids can learn to blow bubbles — push water out of their mouths — kick strongly, and float on their backs,” Leaman says. “Strong toddlers can learn to pull themselves out of the pool, too.”

It’s important to note that these are all supervised skills. “Even advanced swimming skills cannot ‘drown-proof’ a child of any age,” says Jeffrey Weiss, MD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP’s policy statement and technical report.

The AAP also notes that parents should observe swimming children at all times, and remain within arm’s length of infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers. The organization also warns against so-called “water-survival” classes — the kind that might dunk a baby under water or try to teach an infant to roll over on its back alone. “The water-survival skills programs for infants may make compelling videos for the Internet, but no scientific study has yet demonstrated these classes are effective,” the policy states.

Stay safe during non-swimming times, too.

Amazon Safety 1st Swing Shut Toilet Lock amazon.com $6.64

The AAP recommends making sure that kids are safe when swim time is over, too. Sadly, many drownings happen when families aren’t at the pool or beach – kids can have accidents and fall into baths or other reserves of water.

Make sure your kids don’t have access to water when they’re not supervised—that means getting rid of standing water (no full bathtubs or buckets) and putting four-sided barriers around pools and spas. The AAP also recommends learning CPR for emergency situations; you can find CPR classes at your local chapter of the Red Cross.

Marisa LaScala Parenting & Relationships Editor Marisa LaScala covers all things parenting, from the postpartum period through empty nests, for GoodHousekeeping.com; she previously wrote about motherhood for Parents and Working Mother.

Learning to Swim Age-by-Age

If your tot takes to water like a guppy, it may be time to sign up for swim classes. But before you do, it’s important to understand that swim classes for babies and toddlers aren’t designed to teach little ones how to swim on their own. They’re meant for kids and parents to be able to have fun together, safely, in the water.

That said, there have been a few studies supporting the benefits of swim classes for toddlers — some even suggesting that when a young child takes one with a parent, her risk of having a drowning accident may be reduced. It’s definitely a compelling case for signing up your child sooner rather than later.

Here are some factors to consider when figuring out whether your little one is ready for swim classes.

At what age can babies and toddlers learn to swim?

Swimming instruction definitely isn’t a must-do for babies or young toddlers — and it isn’t for every tot either, so don’t force the issue, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The group now supports swimming lessons for children ages 1 and older who show signs of pool readiness and are frequently exposed to water (the previous recommendation was swim classes for most kids ages 4 and up).

If your sweetie seems ready for splashing in something bigger than the bath, discuss the topic of swim lessons with the pediatrician, who can give you a better idea of where your child is developmentally, emotionally and physically, and make a recommendation of a suitable program in your area.

When should my child start swimming lessons?

Age isn’t the only predictor of when your child might be ready to swim. Keep in mind that each child will be ready to swim on her own timeline. If your little one is frequently exposed to the water, be it a pool or the beach, physically coordinated so she can kick and paddle at the same time, and emotionally ready (read: not afraid of the water), all swim signs point to go.

More on Summer Safety

Health Sunscreen and Sun Protection for Toddlers: What Parents Need to Know Health Spotting and Preventing Dehydration in Toddlers Health Protecting Young Children From Extreme Heat Health Sunscreen and Sun Protection for Toddlers: What Parents Need to Know Health Spotting and Preventing Dehydration in Toddlers Health Protecting Young Children From Extreme Heat

In that case, look for a swimming-readiness program that’ll teach her the basic moves — how to float and doggie paddle, for instance. Look for classes of fewer than six students with instructors who are certified in CPR, first aid and water safety. And remember, “touch supervision” should be strongly enforced whenever your tot is in the water (meaning you or another seasoned swimmer should always be within touching distance of the child), especially for babies, toddlers and older children who may be new to splashing without Mom and Dad hanging on.

  • For infants under the age of 1, the AAP recommends against swim programs because the risks may outweigh the benefits. For example, a baby may easily swallow too much water, which could lead to water poisoning, or have trouble adjusting to the cold temperatures in the pool and, in rare cases, experience hypothermia.

  • For children ages 1 to 4, seek parent-and-child aquatics programs (many local community centers and pools offer them) that adhere to YMCA guidelines, where the instructors are trained professionals who are certified in CPR and never allow a child’s head to go below the water’s surface.

  • For swimmers ages 5 and older who are already accustomed to the water, you can try programs that hold classes for kids both with and without parents. Try to find one that focuses on safe pool behavior as well as paddling and kicking. Consider classes that run up to 30 minutes over an eight- to 10-week period so kids can build on foundational skills and eventually move on to coordinating movement of the arms and legs.

What should I look for in a swim class and instructor?

The most important lesson about swim classes: They don’t protect a child from drowning, and they’re never a substitute for constant adult supervision in the water. Parents should always remain within arm’s distance when a child is near or in a body of water and be aware of and on the lookout for signs of drowning.

When selecting a program or class:

  • Make sure the swim instructor is well-trained and experienced, meaning that he or she is certified in both CPR and first aid.
  • Inquire whether or not this is the instructor’s first time teaching, in which case he or she should be under the supervision of an experienced teacher for at least seven weeks.
  • Look for classes that focus first and foremost on personal safety, as well as growth, stroke development, water games and sports, and rescue, per YMCA guidelines.

Also be aware of the AAP’s stance on the safe use of floaties, water wings, inner tubes, rafts and even life jackets. While these swimming aids are fine if you’re in the water right next to your tot, and a snugly-fitted, jacket-style life vest is recommended for children who are in or near the water, they shouldn’t be used to teach your little one how to swim or be counted on to keep her completely safe while she’s splashing around. They often provide a false sense of security, so you still need to be within arm’s reach of your child whenever you two are cooling off in the pool, lake or ocean.

When you know what to look for in a swim class and take the proper precautions, going for a dip with your little one can be a rewarding and even relaxing (rather than stressful) experience. So get in there and have fun!

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.

How to Teach Kids to Swim at Every Age

My Life Graphic/

Tempted to rush out and sign up your little one for swimming lessons this summer? That’s a smart move — if he’s old enough.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents hold off on formal swimming lessons until after their child’s first birthday. Instruction for tots older than a year is not only safe but may help prevent drowning, new evidence suggests. But until then, consider a parent-child program that focuses on water games, swimming-readiness skills, and safety in and around the pool.

“While no course can ‘drownproof’ a child, a progressive learn-to-swim program can provide your child with skills that will last a lifetime,” says Connie Harvey, national health-and-safety expert for the American Red Cross.

Here’s how to help your child learn to swim and take to the water like a fish at every age.

RELATED: How to Teach Your Baby to Swim

1 to 2 Years Old

Swim Lessons:

Along with age, take your child’s experience and comfort with water into account before you sign up for any class. For children over 12 months, the AAP’s latest guidance recommends that parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child’s frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health conditions related to pool water infections and pool chemicals.

At this age, you simply want to introduce your child to the water. You can play in the pool with her yourself or join a class that’s about having fun and getting comfortable in the water — not learning to swim. Activities may include showing her how to splash, singing songs while bobbing around, and playing gentle games together.

Water Safety Tips:

  • Keep your baby in your arms at all times.
  • Do not submerge any child under 3. Kids this age can swallow a large amount of water — enough to dilute the chemicals in their blood, causing sleepiness, nausea, and seizures. In rare cases, water intoxication can be fatal.
  • Dress her in a swim diaper that prevents fecal matter from leaking into the pool — a major health risk for other swimmers.
  • An infant can drown in as little as an inch of water in less than 30 seconds, so beware of all water hazards, including inflatable baby pools, buckets, toilets, and tubs.

RELATED: Baby Swimming Basics: Safety Tips and Fun Tricks for Parents

2 to 3 Years Old

Your curious tot will be more active in the water — though he will definitely still need you or another adult to hold him. In your pool or swimming program, play fun games that require him to move his arms (throw a ball across the pool and have him reach for it, for example), kick his legs, and float supported on his stomach or back.

Show him how to blow bubbles in the water so he’ll learn to get his face wet without swallowing water. By the time he’s 3, he may be able to do many of these things with little help from you.

  • Your toddler may now feel so comfortable in the water that he thinks he can swim by himself. Don’t leave him alone, even for a minute. He needs constant adult supervision around water.
  • Make sure the pool gate is always closed and the lock is out of reach.
  • Stress basic pool safety, like not running near the pool and only going into the water with Mommy or Daddy.
  • Avoid water wings, air-filled swimsuits, and inflatable flotation toys. He’ll sink if they deflate, and they may give him — and you — a false sense of security. If you want to use a flotation device, buy a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Don’t leave toys in the pool after he gets out. He may be tempted to reach for them.

RELATED: 9 Home Swimming Pool Safety Tips All Parents Should Know

4 to 5 Years Old

Now that your child is developing the coordination necessary to learn to swim by herself, you can enroll her in formal swimming lessons. If she doesn’t have much experience in the water, look for a program that helps her get comfortable. You may be able to take part in her first class to make the transition easier for her.

In the shallow water, she should be able to learn how to float independently, submerge her head under the water for five to ten seconds, go from a standing to a swimming position without assistance, glide through the water, and use coordinated kicking and arm movements. She should learn water safety as well as water skills.

  • Even though you don’t have to hold your child, you or the instructor should practice “reach supervision” by being in the water and within reaching distance.
  • Be patient. Your child may be a fish one day and afraid of the water the next. Don’t force her to do an activity until she’s ready.
  • Make sure your pool has the deep and shallow ends marked. A lifeline separating the two ends is a good idea.
  • Never assume another adult is watching, even if a lifeguard is present.
  • Some children hate to get their face wet. Practice at home by encouraging her to put her head under the shower spray.

RELATED: How to Prevent Child Drowning: A Must-Read Guide for Parent

6 Years Old and Up

An older child can hold his breath for longer periods of time, swim underwater, and retrieve objects at the bottom. He will be able to jump into the water and resurface on his own. He can start learning all of the swimming strokes, including the breast- and backstroke. His greater endurance will allow him to swim longer distances.

At this point, you don’t have to be in the water with your child, but you still need to supervise all pool activities, as he might overestimate his abilities.

  • Have an adult watch all water activities. Even a good swimmer can drown.
  • Make it a rule that your child can swim only when an adult is present, and encourage him to always swim with a buddy.
  • Teach him to dive only when an adult is watching and the water is deep.
  • You should be extra vigilant at the beach or a lake. A child’s swimming skills in a pool don’t necessarily translate to open water.
  • Always make your child wear a life jacket when boating or waterskiing, even if he can swim.

RELATED: Dry Drowning Symptoms: Know the Warning Signs

  • By Kourtney Eidam

Parents Magazine

7 Crucial Things to Check Before Enrolling Your Child in a Swimming Class

  • No Pinoy summer vacation is complete without a swimming trip, right, moms? But aside from being fun, your trip should also be safe, and one way to ensure the safety of all members of your family, especially your kids, is by making sure everyone in the family can handle themselves in the water. Swimming lessons are a great way to provide children that knowledge.

    What age to enroll your child in swimming lessons

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children can start taking swimming lessons at the age of 1. However, they can learn or master the necessary water survival skills like “floating, treading water and getting to an exit point” when they reach 4 years old. Studies have also found that taking swim lessons can actually lessen the risk of drowning of kids between 1 and 4 years old. By age 5 or 6, most children in swim lessons can master the front crawl.


    The AAP also notes that children develop at different paces; it is possible that some 1-year-olds may not be ready for formal swimming lessons. In this case, parents are advised to consider their children’s emotional maturity, physical and developmental abilities, and limitations as well as comfort levels in the water before enrolling them in classes.

    AAP doesn’t see the benefits of swim classes catering to babies who are less than 1-year-old. At this age range, infants may be able to show reflex “swimming” movements but are still not able to lift their heads out of the water to breathe.

    More from Smart Parenting

    How your child can benefit from swimming lessons

    Just because your child took swimming lessons does not make him “drown-proof” — you cannot leave him unattended. You still need to be at arm’s length when he’s in or near a body of water. But formal swim instruction will be invaluable when it comes to his safety.


    Swim lessons teach your child basic water safety habits

    He will know how to act or behave when he is in the pool or the beach (the kind of etiquette he can take the lead when he is with younger siblings and friends). He learns necessary water safety procedures such as floating, treading water, and going to the exit point of the pool.

    Swimming is a good workout

    Kids cannot get enough of swimming pools, which is good because it takes them outdoors, for one thing, and away from gadgets. Swimming can help reduce the risk of childhood obesity since it gets the heart pumping and helps build endurance, strength, and even flexibility, among others.

    A day at the pool or the beach is a fun family bonding activity

    This is especially true for children who are less than 1 year old. Even if they are not yet developmentally able to learn how to swim, taking your baby to a parent-child water play class can serve as an exciting bonding opportunity for you and your child as well as a way to help him get more comfortable in the water.


    What to look for when selecting a swim class for your child

    The AAP suggests several factors including the qualifications of the instructors, the lessons that will be taught during the classes, and even the safety measures followed in the location itself. Here’s a checklist.

    Instructors or trainers are experienced and qualified

    The AAP stresses that swim instructors “should be trained and certified through a nationally recognized learn-to-swim curriculum.” Similarly, lifeguards who are present to help assist the classes should also be certified and knowledgeable in CPR.

    The swimming lessons teach good water safety habits

    Aside from teaching children basic swimming techniques, a program should also teach them basic water safety habits and practices, such as never swimming alone or without an adult nearby, and always asking for permission before getting into any body of water.

    The swimming classes teach self-rescue

    Self-rescue is a kind of water competency skill, which is crucial for kids to learn, so they know what to do if they ever find themselves falling into a pool unexpectedly. For older kids, it might also be helpful to take a program that teaches them what to do when they encounter anyone struggling in the water and how to help them.


    Parents are allowed to watch classes

    This doesn’t mean that you will be there to supervise what’s going on during the course — this might make it difficult for your child to focus on his lessons (and distracting for the instructor). Try to ask if you can be allowed to watch a class for yourself so that you can see how the class goes and how the instructors handle the session.

    The swimming activities are age-appropriate

    While in the class, it is essential to make sure that your child feels safe and is able to participate well, and that the activities suit his social, emotional, and intellectual needs, not just the physical ones.

    The student-teacher ratio is low

    In an article for Harvard Health Publishing, Claire McCarthy, M.D. says the ratio of kids to teachers should be as low as possible, especially for classes that cater to younger children and/or new swimmers. This will allow the instructors to stay within arm’s reach of the children.


    “As children gain skills, the group can get a bit bigger,” McCarthy writes, “but there should never be more than the teacher can safely supervise.”

    The venue for the classes is safe

    Another thing parents need to ensure is the safety of the pool venue. Aside from being clean and well-maintained, it is also important that there are barriers to distinguish the deeper parts of the pool. It should also be appropriately equipped with first aid.

How to Teach Your Baby to Swim

TerryJ/Getty Images

Planning Baby’s first dip in the pool? Experts say you can introduce your infant to water whenever you feel comfortable, as long as his belly button or circumcision has healed. (Always check with your pediatrician first, though). Indeed, the younger a child is when she starts splashing, the more comfortable he’s likely to be in the pool.

Ready to dive in? Here’s how to get started.

  • RELATED: Baby Swimming Basics: Safety Tips and Fun Tricks for Parents

Introducing Baby to Swimming

Be early birds. The town pool is less of a mob scene in the morning. Plus, your baby will (let’s hope) be well rested from a good night’s sleep. The sun is also less strong before 10 A.M., lowering her risk of sun damage. She still needs sunblock, though!

Relax. Your baby can sense your mood. If you seem to be enjoying yourself — even though you may be nervous — she’ll try to follow your lead. Start slowly, dipping your tot’s toes into the water so she can get used to the feel of it on her skin.

Get wet. If Baby seems happy, drip water all over her body, gradually increasing the amount. Once you’re in the pool, stay where you can stand easily and hold on to her at all times. Even in the kiddie pool, always be within arm’s reach.

Entertain your baby. Take in a toy or play a game, such as motorboat. Hold Baby under her armpits and sway back and forth, singing, “Motor boat, motor boat, go so slow.” If she’s fine with that, pick up the pace and sing, “Motor boat, motor boat, step on the gas!”

If she seems upset, get out. You want her first time in the pool to be a positive experience. Trying to force her to take to the water can do more harm than good in the long run. If it seems like she’s not ready, wait a month or so and try again.

  • RELATED: How to Prevent Child Drowning: A Must-Read Guide for Parent

Starting Baby Swimming Lessons

Thinking about swim lessons? Sign your baby up after her first birthday. Most swim schools teach babies 6 months and older, but the AAP doesn’t recommend formal programs until 12 months because there’s no proof they’re beneficial, and the health risks of swallowing water are greater before 1 year.

For children over 12 months, their latest guidance recommends that parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child’s frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health conditions related to pool water infections and pool chemicals. Instruction for tots older than a year is not only safe but may help prevent drowning, evidence suggests.

Here’s the splashdown on swim-school specifics:

  • RELATED: 9 Home Swimming Pool Safety Tips All Parents Should Know

What do babies learn in swim lessons?

First she’ll get used to being in the water. She’ll pick up basic skills such as how to kick, blow bubbles, pull with her arms, and get her face wet. Eventually she’ll dunk and — when she’s a wee bit older, around 3 or 4 — take off swimming!

Should babies wear a lifejacket during swim lessons?

Not during lessons, advises Connie Harvey, manager of aquatics technical development at the American Red Cross Preparedness and Health and Safety Services. “You want her to know what it’s like to be in the water without a flotation device.” Plus, a vest puts Baby in a vertical position, which is unnatural for swimming.

What kind of baby swim class is best?

Seek out small-group lessons with up to ten caregiver-baby pairs. Look for a fun atmosphere with a relaxed, flexible pace. Instructors should be nationally certified by an organization such as the American Red Cross.

Where can I find a good baby swimming program?

Try your local American Red Cross chapter, YMCA, or parks and recreation department.

  • By Linda Diproperzio and Kara Mayer Robinson

What age should a child start swimming lessons?


  • If children have any serious illnesses parents may not want to take them into a public aquatic facility
  • Progress in lessons will not be as fast as for older children

Commencing lessons from 10-24 months


  • If kids have spent time in the water with their parents/ family they will usually transition into the water without any fear
  • Between 10-24 months toddlers like to develop independence (in activities and making decisions) and we can build their water awareness/ aquatic education and mobility skills.
  • Children develop good mobility, in and out of the water at this age and this mobility can be translated from the land to the water
  • Water safety and awareness is critically important for this curious age
  • Swimming lessons are a fun activity and great form of exercise
  • Development of foundation skills to learn to swim independently
  • Other pros as listed above


  • As children develop independence and imagination some children will develop a fear of swimming or going under water
  • Some children in 10-24 age group will not want to follow instructions in a formal lesson setting (although most good swim schools will have a fun, play based programme to counteract this).

24-36 months


  • As children are stronger they can develop a greater level of aquatic independence and a strong swimmer will learn to swim unaided at this age (of course only under adult supervision – no more than arms’ reach away)
  • Many children learn to follow instructions from their teacher in this period


  • If children have an irrational fear of the water lessons can be unproductive or counterproductive
  • Some children will not want to co-operate or follow instructions which can be critical to safety in classes

36-48 months


  • As children are stronger they can develop a greater level of aquatic independence and many children will learn to swim unaided at this age (of course only under adult supervision – no more than arms’ reach away)
  • Many children learn to follow instructions from their teacher in this period


  • If children haven’t spent time in the water at an earlier age it can take some time to learn to be comfortable in the water. This comfort is essential to developing swimming skills.

4 years +


  • Children are able to aquire skills more quickly as they are more co-ordinated and physically capable


  • Waiting until 4 year of age will potentially give rise to the possibility of exposing your child to aquatic danger which they are not equipped to deal with, in the absence of prior swimming lessons (ie if they haven’t had swimming lessons, they may find themselves exposed to aquatic dangers before 4 years of age).
  • Children are less comfortable in the water and their movements are less natural than children who have spent time in the pool at a younger age
  • Children who don’t learn to swim until 4 years + are likely to be behind their peers in swimming skills in Australia. This can also limit their opportunities for aquatic play/ fun with their friends.

For children under the age of 5, it makes a huge difference if they swim regularly – children who swim with their parents between lessons make substantially faster progress than those who swim only during their lesson each week. And for under 5s it doesn’t need to be formal practise – simply playing in the water will increase their confidence and comfort levels in the water.

Swimming lessons are hugely important for all Australian kids, and whilst swimming is a great recreational activity and sport, water safety and drowning prevention are clearly a hugely important motivating factor for parents in enrolling their children in swimming lessons. A 2009 in by the USA’s National Institute of Health concluded that “participating in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in children aged 1-4 years.”

Swimming lessons alone certainly don’t eliminate the risk of drowning, but a better understanding by children and parents of the aquatic environment and their own capabilities is a first and most important step in the process of aquatic education.