When Nicole Beasley Becker’s then one-year-old son began jumping in the pool without warning, she knew she and her husband had to take action with swim training.
“He had no fear and would just jump in to the pool without listening to us. We had to take action to counter his action. Words never counted,” Becker said. “So, we worked with him to be sure he knew how to hold his breath. We would have him jump in and started with him holding hands then one hand then on his own.”
By the time Becker had her second and third children, she had them in the pool by three months old. They went through Infant Swim Resource®, a popular form of swim lessons that teaches babies, toddlers and preschoolers to “self-rescue” in the water.
More than one in five fatalities that occur in the water are children between the ages of 1 and 4, according to the Red Cross. Living in Florida where swimming season is essentially year- round, it is vitally important to teach children to swim or at least obtain life-saving rescue abilities at a young age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently changed their water safety guidelines and recommends that parents begin teaching their child to swim at 1 year old, which has become a popular trend across the country, especially in Florida.
Even if you feel your child isn’t ready for swim lessons by age 1, it’s still important to help familiarize them with water. Parents can take classes with their children where both parent and child get in the water and focus on exercises that make them more comfortable with being in the water.
Becker used some of these strategies when she took her youngest children into the pool. “I would blow into their face and put them under water. Blowing on their face made them instinctively hold their breath,” she said.
When searching for swim lessons, the AAP recommends that parents look for trained and certified instructors and closely observe the first class to make sure it’s a right fit for your child. Parents should ensure that in addition to swim techniques, the lessons should include water survival skills so that children learn how to submerge from underwater and swim to the side of the pool.
In particular, for children under the age of 4, parents should look for an atmosphere that is age appropriate where parents are encouraged to participate with their infant or toddler.
Also remember that swim lessons are only part of the puzzle. In drowning cases, 69% of children under the age of 5 were not expected to be in the water at the time of a drowning, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Teaching your child essential water safety skills is key, said the AAP.
If a parent is in doubt about whether their child is physically or developmentally ready to start swimming lessons, they should ask their pediatrician.
When searching for swim lessons, the AAP recommends that parents look for trained and certified instructors and closely observe the first class to make sure it’s a right fit for your child.