Safety around pools and other bodies of water is essential for anyone, especially children: the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States in children ages 1 to 4 is drowning. And the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in youth ages 5 to 19 is also drowning, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
To help decrease risks of drowning, in its latest water safety guidelines, the AAP recommends that children should start swimming lessons while under two-years-old, as the Washington Post reports.
“Research has found that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age 1,” Linda Quan, a co-author of the policy statement, said in an AAP news release.
“Formal lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent,” says Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation, the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming, whose goal is to have every child learn to swim.
“We have found a child can start at 6 months or when they are able to hold their head upright,” says Lindsay Mondick, senior manager of aquatics for the YMCA of the USA.
Some factors to consider when starting children on swimming lessons include:
- health status
- emotional maturity
- physical and cognitive limitations
At such a young age, children should not be expected to do the backstroke. However, they should be able to do the following:
- blow bubbles
- float on their back
Those skills are all building blocks to more advanced aquatic skills. Pools and swimming facilities vary, so parents would want to visit a myriad of them before enrolling their kid(s).
Caretakers should be doing the following:
- Take a look at the pool(s)
- Meet the staff
- Consider whether you want an indoor or outdoor pool
- Opt for a facility that has both a shallow and deep end
- Make sure that only a portion of its space is dedicated to swimming lessons
- Check to see if the facility has multiple swimming lessons or activities that occur simultaneously
- Check the water temperature (they’re typically set from 77 to 82 degrees)
- Inquire about the ratio of children to instructors (the standard is no more than 6 to 1)
- Check to see how long the lessons are (the average class is a minimum of 30 minutes)
- Make sure the instructor(s) are certified by a reputable organization (ex: American Red Cross, YMCA, or Ellis & Associates)
- Make sure certified lifeguards are on duty during lessons
- Inquire to see if the pool is insured.
- See if there’s a separate changing room for families that provide a toilet and shower