Parenting • Jul 20, 2011

Don’t Rely on Swimming Lessons Alone to Prevent Drowning

Swimming lessons can be a lot of fun for kids of all ages. But if your child is four-years-old or under, please don’t let swim classes provide a false sense of security. Studies say this age group really isn’t ready to learn basic swimming skills.

Adult Supervision Required

It’s up to us, as parents, to be alert and vigilant at all times to prevent drowning, which is the leading cause of unintentional injury and death in children. Some studies suggest young children may be less likely to drown if they’ve had some formal lessons. But they won’t be capable of understanding water hazards or how to stay safe in the water until they’re much older. Regardless of your child’s swimming ability, it is important to keep constant close supervision when they’re in the water. Most programs for young children are designed to introduce them to the water – and to have fun – rather than teach them to swim independently.

Is Your Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

Consider how frequently your child is exposed to water, his emotional development, and his physical ability when deciding whether to sign him up for swimming lessons. Also, please remember it is not a replacement for closer, personal supervision in the water.

Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics for Infants and Toddlers

1. Children are generally not developmentally ready for formal swimming lessons until after their fourth birthday.

2. Aquatic programs for infants and toddlers should not be promoted as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.

3. Parents should not feel secure that their child is safe in water or safe from drowning after participation in such programs.

4. Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within an arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”

5. All aquatic programs should include information on the cognitive and motor limitations of infants and toddlers, the inherent risks of water, the strategies available to prevent drowning, and the role of adults in supervising and monitoring the safety of children in and around water.

6. Hypothermia, water intoxication, and communicable diseases can be prevented by following existing medical guidelines and do not preclude infants and toddlers from participating in otherwise appropriate aquatic experience programs.

If you need advice about your child’s health or need help choosing a pediatrician, call the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line at 314.454.KIDS.

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