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Kids Under 4 Should Learn to Swim, Says AAP

By bethanysanders |

In the past, most pediatricians discouraged swimming lessons for little kids because it really wasn’t clear whether or not preschoolers, toddlers, and babies were developmentally up to the task. Not only that, they feared, the lessons could give parents a false sense of security around pools and other bodies of water.

But new research suggests that kids between the ages of one and four do benefit from swimming lessons, and now the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that families put their tots into swim school.

In a statement, the AAP wrote:

“In light of new research that has revealed that swim instruction for children 1 to 4 years of age may decrease drowning, it is reasonable for the AAP to relax its policy regarding the age at which children should start learning water-survival skills.”

Drowning is the second most common cause of death in children one to 19, and pools kill more kids than guns do. And so even parents of perfect swimmers need to be educated on the 12 ways to keep your kids safe around water. What the AAP is saying is that in addition to diligence and a multi-layer approach to drowning prevention and water safety, swimming lessons are a good idea, too.

At the Palm Beach Post, parent Carlos Frias describes watching his two-year-old daughter pass her survival swimming course “test:”

The instructor chucks my Catalina fully dressed – jacket, T-shirt, jeans and shoes with sparkles on the toes – into the deep end of the pool. She’s churning her little legs, flailing her little arms, and I find myself holding my breath while her face is under water.

Then, something incredible happens: She whips one little arm like a wounded wing and flips herself onto her back. The tiny pink jacket puffs unevenly as she spreads her arms like a starfish and floats there peacefully, like she’s relaxing on a pool chair.

Her teacher tries everything to shake her. He carries her to the edge of the pool and flips her backwards into the 6-foot-deep pool. Up she pops. He tries sitting her unevenly on the pool steps so she’ll flop over, and again she’s on her back.

“No tricking her,” my oldest daughter Elise can be heard saying on the video. “She’s always ready.”

Will this report change your mind about early swimming lessons?

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0 thoughts on “Kids Under 4 Should Learn to Swim, Says AAP

  1. Amandashea17 says:

    I know way to many college age students who don’t know how to swim. Which I think is sad.

  2. PlumbLucky says:

    No, because my son has already been in baby swim lessons (granted, he’s just getting to the class where they teach what was mentioned above). Husby and I grew up on the water. I was a lifeguard. I have no illusions that there is such a thing as a “perfect swimmer”. Having some idea of what to do in the water and not being freaked out by it simply helps increase the likelihood of survival as far as I’m concerned. We have a rule that if you are supervising a child in the water, you are IN the water with them, period. And there are no unsupervised children in the pool (til they are tall enough to stand flat-foot and have their head above water level – its a smallish pool, but still).

  3. Marj says:

    I’m hoping to get my babies into some sort of swim class this summer. I am a poor swimmer and have nearly drowned more than once. I don’t want my kids to end up like me.

  4. eanleesy says:

    Wonderful new recommendations but long overdue. Think of how many children’s lives could have been saved had they relented years ago on their ridiculous and un researched opinions on swimming for babies. Just remember, not all swimming lessons are created equal. Some still stress play only at this age and parents must do their research.

  5. Mary Jo says:

    Please make sure to read the ENTIRE policy statement made by the AAP. In addition to what was bulleted above is the following statement: “However, the current evidence is insufficient to support a recommendation that all 1- to 4-year-old children receive swimming lessons. It must be stressed that even advanced swimming skills will not always prevent drowning and that swimming lessons must be considered only within the context of multilayered protection
    with effective pool barriers and constant,capable supervision.”

  6. [...] AAP just released a statement saying that swimming lessons are safe for kids under four.  If you’re thinking of taking your tot, Parents Ask has some comprehensive advice on [...]

  7. Cassie says:

    Best thing we ever did was enroll our infant/toddler in Infant Swimming Resource. Our first trip to the pool this year, our son fell off the pool steps and within seconds (as I was nearing in to get him), he rolled over to a float with no fear.

  8. Katrina R. says:

    The AAP is NOT recommending parents put their tots in swim programs. What they have done (as you stated) is relaxed their policy on discouraging parents to sign up kids younger than four into swim programs. It’s a play on words — but definitely not a 360-degree change in recommendations. Think of it like fire warnings — they went from “red” or “high” alert to “orange” or “moderate” alert.

    As a reputable swim instructor with 15 years of experience; yes, I do agree all kids of every age benefit from water exposure. But to quote the AAP, parents “have a tendency to over-estimate the cognitive and under-estimate the physical.” Best to focus more on water safety — and we have the biggest one ever launching right now from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  9. Rebekah says:

    my daughter has been in swin lessons since she was 4 months (now 8 months) she absolutly loves it
    Here in Australia, babies as young as 3 months are in swin lessons. best thing ever

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