What’s the Perfect Age to Learn How to Swim

by Alenka

Splash.  Not a moment of hesitation.  Thousands of tiny droplets cover the sides of the pool.  The first thing emerging from a distant blue bottom is a happy grin with a few missing teeth.  Another dive and with a few confident strokes he reaches the other side of the pool.  The ball is his again.  Feels good to be his mom, lounging in a shade, on the side of the pool.  A friend leans over: “How old did you say he was when you started swimming?”

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Pretty picture.  Took some work to get there. Well worth it.

With a slight guilt for the triumphant smile, that I can’t shake off, I really enjoy sharing a story how a swimming director in our local outdoor pool denied my eight month old from joining mommy and me aquatics class.  “We start at 12 months.  He is too young.  He isn’t going to learn how to swim until he is 4 anyway, so it will be just a disappointment foou.”  I think he is right! If we were to join a regular baby aquatic class, my son wouldn’t learn to swim until 4.  But he didn’t.  So I just purchased a good book and by the end of the summer he could swim independently.

“That’s so young!” – yes, my friend is impressed, and rather dissuaded from further diving into this topic – a swimming toddler sounds overwhelming, unattainable and unnecessary.

In a way: she is right!  It is absolutely unnecessary. Yep, having three boys learn to swim one earlier then another (little fishy #3 started right in a bathtub), I do not find it a necessity!

“So at what age is good to learn to swim?” – my friend raises her eyebrows.

Any.  More important question is what you want them to do with it.  

“Well, I just want my daughter to know how to swim, that’s all. And it is common safety, you know!  I don’t want her to drown.”

Swimming has very little to do with safety.  Watching your kid – is safety. Weather he knows how to swim or not.  Moreover, a swimming kid gives you a false sense of security.  Whenever we have one of our wet and splashy playdates, I neither can relax, nor stop counting: three heads over the water… two heads over the water… four… one… no pushing, I said!!!  Keep your hands to yourself!!!!  Oh, here he is again… wooh…

If I pretend that as I watched my three year old scooping his way through the olympic size pool, the mighty strokes of Michael Phelps escaped my daydream – that would be laughable.  Yet, his golden fame never was on our agenda.  Neither was swim team.  I love water, I love swimming, I wanted to share that with my kids, not pursue it professionally.

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“Yes, but swimming is the safest sport, isn’t it?  Less injuries, you know…”

If you are serious about any sport, there will be injuries.  Different for each sport, but still there.  Swimming team was never on our agenda for one big reason: my kids never shared my passion.  Yet they always shared the fun!  Every week we have a family trip to the local indoor pool.  Can we relax because all three boys (including a baby) are swimming?  No.  Can we all enjoy yet?  Oh yeah!!!  They dive, they jump, they splash, they chase the balls and toys, they race.  No hesitation, no distress, no fear.  They feel confident.  They feel successful. They feel happy!  That’s what matters.

If those things are your goals – it doesn’t matter what age to start.  The best swimmer in our family is my baby sister, who started taking lessons at 14.  The next one after her – my baby brother, who was afraid of waddling into the water deeper then passed his ankles, until he was six.  He could spend hours standing ankle deep, with his elbows firmly sticking out as his hands rested on his hips,  observing us diving and splashing in a distance.   The most dedicated one in our family – is me, who hasn’t had a single swimming lesson in my entire life.    

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Some parents feel uneasy about little ones and big pools.  If you are not one of them – start young!  Play in a water together, learn that it is  fun to put your face in it, jump from the sides of the pool, poor and spray from watering cans and cute cups!  If your kid is just not ready – pack up some patience – you’ll get there!  You should see my brother’s groovy butterfly stroke now!

Time, love, patience and persistence are the best helper.
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One thought on “What’s the Perfect Age to Learn How to Swim

  1. Antje

    Hi,
    interesting Article. Can you share how you actually taught your child to swim ? Which book did you use and how did the teaching go ?
    Thanks !
    Antje

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