Swimming Programs for Infants or Toddlers

Swim classes for children under the age of 4 years have become popular. Programs suggest there are benefits, such as early mastery of swimming skills, water safety, health, and fun.

What type of infant or toddler swim lessons are not appropriate?

  • If your child is pushed or hurried, he may develop a fear of water. If your child screams or is afraid during any type of water program, do not continue.
  • If someone is not holding your child and she happens to go underwater, she can inhale enough water in the first 10 seconds to cause symptoms of near drowning. Don’t allow your child to swallow pool water.
  • Swallowed pool water can be dangerous. If a child swallows too much water, the concentration of salt in the body can be lowered to a dangerous level and may cause seizures. Avoid infant programs that encourage submersion of the head for more than a few seconds.
  • Under the age of 1 year, avoid swim lessons. Infants cannot be taught to save themselves in the water.

When and how should I teach my child about water?

Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discouraged enrolling children in true swim lessons until 4 years of age. In 2010, the AAP changed their stance based upon a few studies suggesting toddlers may be less likely to drown if they’ve had swim lessons. Now they approve enrolling children after they reach 1 year of age. If you have already taught your child to enjoy the water, she may learn to swim more quickly. If you want to acquaint your infant with water, concentrate on having fun, not learning how to swim.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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