When to teach your child to swim

Professionals recommend waiting until the 4th birthday before pursuing swim lessons.
Professionals recommend waiting until the 4th birthday before pursuing swim lessons.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Teaching youngsters to swim is a rite of passage in many families, but when is the right time?

Many programs like "Water Babies" are out there to get children used to the water.  The American Academy of Pediatrics said formal swimming lessons should not be given until after the 4th birthday. Part of the reasoning is the ability for children to hold their breath for long periods of time.

The American Red Cross has offered swim lessons for decades.  Charlotte Foley is head of preparedness, Health and Safety with the Red Cross.

"Basically, the American Red Cross learn to swim program is geared for children and adults 6 years of age and up," said Foley.

There are classes for parents and younger children to get them used to the water.  Swim instructors said every child is different when learning how to swim.

Katie Harlan is a water safety instructor.  She teaches children often.

"It's really just based on maturity and how much the parent gets in the water with the child and how consistent they are with that."

There is a concern that younger children can become overconfident, and parents might also be over confident.

Experts said when it comes to teaching a child to swim, there's a big difference between fear and respect.

"That's the group that we need to watch and never leave unattended," said Foley.

"I do think it's very, very important for a child to learn to respect the water. Because with that comes water safety," said Harlan.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also advocates parents remain within an arms length of the child.

Harlan teaches children to get a grown-up if there is a problem. Parents are also taught not to leave their children alone in any water, even a bathtub.

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