Swimming is great. Not only is it a solid way to cool down during the hot summer months, but it is also a great workout--as well as a whole lot of fun. Of course, water play comes with a certain set of dangers. Thousands of people die from drowning every year, and too large a percentage of those are children.
The question of when it is appropriate to teach a child to swim has been long debated. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned against swimming lessons for anyone under the age of four. Now, however, they allow that children may be ready for formal swimming lessons as early as 1-year-old. As more evidence becomes available, it seems that early exposure to proper techniques can prove life-saving. The AAP recommends mandatory swimming lessons for any child 4-years-old or older.
Every parent has to decide for their own family when it is right and proper to begin water lessons. Children are different--their maturity levels and physical capability can vary wildly from child to child. Swimming lessons for children are not meant to be “fun.” It is an activity that can be wildly outside the child’s comfort zone.
If you are considering a swim class for your young child, be sure to check it out for yourself. Smaller class sizes (less than 10 people is ideal) mean that your child gets more personal instruction. Make certain that the teacher is capable, and that there is a lifeguard on duty at all times. Ensure that the water being used is acceptable. Small children are more susceptible to problems from water temperature and pathogens that they may ingest while swimming, so make sure that everything is safe for your kid.
Some programs are designed to promote survival techniques as well. Some babies are capable of learning to float on their backs even at less than a year old, and older children may be able to comprehend the dangers involved in water play. Promoting awareness of the environment, inherent dangers, and proper swimming techniques are all necessary for children who are going to be in the water.
It is also vital that parents maintain control of the situation. Never leave children unattended around bodies of water. Always make sure an adult is present and accounting for the situation. If you have a pool, having a fence of at least 4 ft height around it is recommended (and in some places required) to prevent children from stumbling into it--and you want to make sure that it’s not one that is easy to climb over. Pool covers are also useful, as are pool alarms, in preventing improper use--but neither is a substitute for either attentiveness or a protective barrier to prevent falls.
Swimming is a fantastic activity for families. It is fun, refreshing, and a great way to get in your daily dose of physical activity. Be smart about how you and your family handle your swimming time! Make sure children are properly instructed and aware of the dangers of the water, keep your eyes open, and enjoy your time in the sun--and the pool!