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Swim Safety

Learning to swim should be a priority for every family. It's an important life skill that can play a key role in helping to prevent drowning―a top cause of death among children. Children, and their parents, need to learn how to swim to help keep time in the water safe and fun!

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on the best time to start swim lessons and what to look for in a quality learn-to-swim program.

When should my child learn to swim?

Children develop at different rates, and not all are ready to begin swim lessons at exactly the same age. When making your decision, keep your child's emotional maturity, physical and developmental abilities and limitations, and comfort level in the water in mind.

The AAP recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning that can begin for many children starting at age 1. Classes that include both parents and their children are a good way to introduce water safety habits and start building swim readiness skills. If your child seems ready, it's a good idea to start lessons now.

Swim programs for babies under 1 year old are not recommended. There is no evidence that these types of infant swim programs lower drowning risk. Infants this age may show reflex "swimming" movements but aren’t able to raise their heads out of the water enough to breathe.

Always keep in mind that swim lessons are just one of several important layers of protection needed to help prevent drowning.

What should I look for when choosing swim lessons?

Look for classes and instructors that follow guidelines focused not just on swim stroke techniques, but broader water survival competency skills. All children should learn how to get back to the surface from underwater, propel themselves at least 25 yards, and get out of the water.

The program should have qualified instructors who are certified through a nationally recognized learn-to-swim curriculum. There should also be lifeguards on duty who have current CPR and First Aid certification. A good program will teach safety habits in, on and near water.

If the cost of swimming lessons is a concern, check with your city government. Many towns have scholarship programs that help cover the cost of swim lessons held at public schools.


Proper supervision is one of the most important ways to help prevent drowning. Drowning is quick, silent, and much more common than most families realize. It happens every day to children with loving, attentive parents and caregivers. Below are a few rules to help make swim time as safe as possible!

  • Pay close, constant attention. Do not get distracted with other activities even if lifeguards are present.
  • Avoid using alcohol or drugs around the water, especially when supervising others.
  • For younger children and weak swimmers, get in the water with them. "Touch supervision" is essential! If you must leave, take the child with you.
  • Don't leave a baby or young child under the care of another child.
  • During parties when it's easy to get distracted, assign a "water watcher" whose job is to constantly keep eyes on the children in or near the water. Take turns with other responsible adults after a set time (such as 15 minutes).
  • Children and weak swimmers should always use life jackets by natural bodies of water or at water parks. Make sure they fit properly and are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Learn CPR and safe rescue techniques to respond to a drowning incident. Water safety is a family affair!


Last Updated 3/15/2019

Source American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.