Do you ever feel a tinge of envy scrolling through social media and seeing videos of your friends’ infants swimming like little champs? Meanwhile, you’re still coaching your little one on mastering the pincer grasp, while the baby of that girl from 5th grade appears to have acquired aquatic survival skills. We’ve all heard the saying “the early bird catches the worm,” but does it hold true for swimming lessons? We’re not discussing Infant Self-Rescue (ISR), which obviously has numerous benefits, but rather traditional swimming lessons.
Researchers examined nearly 300 children aged 3-8 to determine how long it took them to acquire certain skills, and it turns out there’s a sweet spot.
This reminds me of a piece of wisdom a newborn nurse once shared: “You can teach a one-day old baby how to walk, but it will still take them a year to figure it out.” The same principle applies to swimming.
You can begin lessons when your child is 1, 2, or 3 years old, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be swimming before preschool. They will develop many valuable skills that will eventually enable them to swim, but it will take them longer than those who start later.
So, when is the ideal time to teach my baby to swim?
The magic age is 5.5 years old. A study published in the Journal of Motor Learning and Development found that 3-year-olds took four times longer to achieve the first level of swimming proficiency than children who began lessons at ages 7 or 8. This is because motor and cognitive skills continuously improve as children grow. Young kids struggle more with learning new forms of movement (which is why it’s rare to see a 2-year-old skip or a 3-year-old ride a bike). If you wait until the prime age of 5.5 years old, your child will master swimming in a shorter time span.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t feel regretful about all those swim lessons you paid for while your child was still in a swim diaper (as I’m currently doing with my youngest). Swim lessons have numerous benefits, as highlighted in another study. The research concluded that young children who attended swim lessons developed social, intellectual, linguistic, and physical skills, many of which better prepared them for school. Moreover, they might still learn to swim before turning 5.5; it might just take a bit longer.
The initial step in teaching your child to swim is making them comfortable in the water. You can accomplish this by participating in a parent-child swim class or by using the Mambobaby Float. We recommend introducing them to water as soon as they turn 8 weeks old (and weigh 9 pounds). The earlier they start, the more they seem to enjoy it. For the first use of your Mambobaby Float, choose a familiar environment with a comfortable water temperature. Fill the tub deep enough so your baby can float effortlessly.
Those joyful smiles will eventually lead to a child who is confident in the water, and one day, they’ll be leaping off the high dive.