It’s best to hold off on formal swim lessons — where your child is alone in the pool with his teacher and classmates — until he’s at least 3 years old. That’s because younger kids simply aren’t developmentally ready for solo swim lessons. Most 2-year-olds aren’t able to listen to the instructor for any length of time or to follow instructions — skills that are vital not only for learning how to swim, but for staying safe in the water.
But you and your toddler can certainly take a parent-and-child water orientation class, in which you accompany and supervise him in the locker room, pool, and other areas. Parent-child classes are fun, expose your child to the water, and teach important safety information.
If your child is 3 or older but hasn’t spent much time in the water or seems scared of water, it’s a good idea to take a parent-child class together before signing him up for regular swim lessons.
Swim lessons for children ages 3 and older are centered on aquatic readiness skills that are geared to a child’s age, development level, and individual ability. These classes are usually grouped by both age and skill level. So beginning preschoolers (kids ages 3 to 5) take classes with other beginning preschoolers and beginning grade-schoolers (kids ages 6 to 8 ) take classes with other beginners their age. Working in small groups, kids learn simple water-safety rules, breath control, and basic arm and leg movements. As children get older and gain more experience in the water, they tackle more difficult swimming skills. Before you sign your child up for a particular class, do some research to find a program that’s right for him and has a philosophy that you agree with.