Q:When is the earliest I can take my baby for swim lessons, and what’s the best way for a baby to learn survival or swimming skills?
A: The answer may vary slightly from teacher to teacher, but most agree that a gentle fun program has a great advantage if you begin when your little one has completed his or her first immunizations. Usually that is between three to six months.
I always advise Survival classes first. Our own programs are deeply committed to a back floating initially. We believe that once a child, however young, can float on his back, he has a far better chance of survival in the event of an accident. His airways are clear and he has the ability to shout, cry and be heard. Drowning is often a silent killer since most victims have never been taught to roll over and float on their backs. Swim instructors working with parents can teach babies, some as young as 10 to 11 months, to roll over and float. With gentle, fun teaching, this is completely achievable. If survival skills are taught first, babies learn the technique of propulsion and stroke improvement very quickly, and advance to be safe and happy swimmers. Fear, which is a natural development in childhood, can be avoided by starting very young. In recent years the American Academy of Pediatrics did not accept that survival classes saved lives, but last year, due to the work of dedicated Swim professionals, the Academy reversed its position. We absolutely know that it does.
There is a much preparation that can be done in the first three months by Mom or Dad in the tub. Gently trickling water on the face, eyes and ears and not wiping with a towel is enormously helpful, Splashing and making noise is great also.
Constant vigilance is vital at all times even when they can swim.
Start classes and enjoy, and you will be amazed at what can be achieved.
Rita Goldberg is the owner of multiple swim schools in three states. She believes that all very young children can and should be taught survival skills at a very young age. Her book, I love to Swim, encourages parents to teach kids to swim.