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Do Swimming Lessons Keep Children Safe in the Water?

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Do Swimming Lessons Keep Children Safe in the Water? Photo © Nyul / Dreamstime
Question: Do Swimming Lessons Keep Children Safe in the Water?

Grandparents are champion worriers. We worry about our grandchildren's safety and we may especially worry about water safety, since drowning is a leading cause of death in children.

If your grandchildren have a pool at their home or apartment complex, or if you have one, you have an extra reason for concern. You may be wondering if swimming lessons will ensure the safety of your grandchildren in the water.

Answer:

A few years ago there was a movement aimed at teaching very young children how to swim, based on the idea that they would not drown if they fell into the water. Dramatic videos showed children less than one year old appearing to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points to a lack of scientific evidence that such swimming has any protective value for children and opposes swim lessons for those younger than one.

The AAP okays formal swimming lessons beginning at age 4 and as of 2010 has relaxed its earlier opinion that swimming lessons aren't advisable for children younger than 4. The Academy stops short of saying that all children from the ages of 1-4 should receive swimming lessons, saying that such decisions should be made on an individual basis. The mean age for learning to swim well is about 5 ½ years.

Even if children have had swim lessons, all normal precautions should be taken to keep children safe in the water. If vigilance is relaxed because a child has had swimming lessons, or if the child loses all fear of the water, then giving a child swimming lessons could have a negative impact on the child's safety.

Everyone concerned with water safety agrees that “touch supervision” is of paramount importance until children learn to swim well. That means simply that an adult should be able to touch the child at all times. Those supervising children should stay within an arm’s length, which means that it’s best to supervise only one young child at a time. Floaties or a life vest can make supervising children easier, but don’t rely on them to keep grandchildren safe. The arm's length rule still applies.

Older children who do know how to swim well should still be observed while swimming.

Pool owners should practice seven layers of protection to keep all swimmers safe.

Learn more about water safety for kids.

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