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When should your child learn to swim?

Drowning is a major cause of accidental death and injury among children—and drowning rates are highest among babies 1 to 2 years old. With those statistics, no wonder parents want their kids to take swimming lessons as soon as they can walk. But will classes help? Consider these points before you get your youngster in the swim:

  • Don’t jump the gun. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to wait until their children are developmentally ready to understand and conquer swimming basics—usually around age 4. According to research, whether kids started lessons at 2, 3 or 4 years old, they all learned to swim well at about the same age—5½ years.
  • Take precautions. No evidence exists that enrolling kids in swimming classes reduces drowning and injury risks, says the AAP. The bottom line: Whether or not your kids have had lessons, always stay within arms’ reach when they’re in and around water.
  • Enroll in a parent/toddler water program for fun. But have realistic expectations—your baby won’t learn to swim and you won’t “drown-proof” your little one. If your child becomes more comfortable in water, you may both have a false sense of security. The best way to protect your child from drowning is with supervision.