Is My Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

Boris op de rand
source: Ianus via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard stories of babies thrown in the water who come up swimming at six months. You’ve seen kids in the pool who look way too old to be wearing floaties. So when should a child learn how to swim?

Here are some tips, although of course you know your child best and should take that into mind.

  • Children younger than 3 are probably not able to do a swim lesson with an instructor. (Really, how often does your 2-year-old listen to YOU, nevertheless someone else when he is distracted by splashing?) Hold off on parent-free lessons until age 3. But if you can take a parent-child class, go for it if you toddler is comfortable with it.
  • Find a class that splits by age range so your child will not be mixed in with kids much younger or older.
  • Most experts will say that the motor skills for actual swimming are not developed until age 5 and beyond. Preschoolers will do great in simple getting-used-to-the-water type lessons, but don’t expect your son or daughter to learn how to really swim in a proper fashion before 5. The more comfortable he or she already is with the water, though, the easier lessons will be in the future.
  • Lessons will be progressive, so continue them each summer.
  • Studies show that whether you start swim lessons at 2, 3, or 4, most kids won’t start swimming independently until about 5 1/2.

I would conclude that you can start swim lessons when you’re comfortable with your child being in the water with an instructor – beginning with a parent-child class and moving onto group or individual instruction without parents in the pool. But don’t be discouraged if your preschooler doesn’t learn to swim independently.

(Puddle Jumpers are so wonderful for that age when they WANT to try to swim but can’t, too!)

Do you have any tips or stories about swim lessons?



  1. We had swimming lessons at our local lake that were split up by skill level and approximate age. However I think that you should always aim young. It is really embarrassing for the kid if they struggle swimming and they are older than others in their class. I think parents can do a lot to help to teach their kids to swim as well.

  2. I really like the insight you give that lessons are progressive, so it’s important to continue them each summer. I used to nanny for my aunt every summer, and part of her daughter’s summer routine was swimming lessons. I found that doing these each summer allowed my cousin to get out of the house and exercise, but it also helped her to slowly learn and develop this great skill! Overall, working progressionally helps kids to not be overwhelmed by the process of learning to swim, and it helps them to not be scared of the water, too. Thank you for sharing!

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