Considering the number of accidental drownings and near-drownings involving young children every year, swimming lessons may be one of the best things parents can provide for their children. There are a number of non-profit organizations such as the YMCA which routinely offer swimming lessons to the public, as well as private swimming coaches who can offer swimming lessons in the privacy and comfort of a homeowner's pool. The key is to teach very young children not to fear the water, and older children how to improve their stamina and confidence.
There is some question about the minimal age requirement for swimming lessons. While some parents may feel comfortable supervising a toddler in the shallow end of a pool, experts such as the American Association of Pediatrics suggest that children under the age of four are not developmentally prepared for formal swimming lessons. Parents who enroll their very youngest children in aquatic programs should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Drowning is still a leading cause of death among toddler-aged children, regardless of their experiences with formal swimming lessons. Parents should still be within touching range of their children while in the pool or at the beach.
With children four and older, swimming lessons often combine one of their favorite recreational activities with a natural urge to compare their abilities with others. A young child may enjoy meeting other swimmers his or her age, as well as learning all the different strokes associated with swimming. Swimming lessons often include opportunities to measure personal growth, such as time trials or informal peer-to-peer competitions. For those children who enjoy spending time in the water, swimming lessons may be just as valued as any other organized sport or outside activity.
When it comes to choosing appropriate activities for your child, however, you should always consider your child's level of interest. Swimming lessons often entail visiting a local aquatic center several times a week, which may mean adjustments to a parent's daily routine. It is not unusual for popular pools to limit their hours for private swimming lessons, or to open the pool for competitive swimming very early in the morning. Swimming lessons may be scheduled over a number of weeks or even months, so it pays to know precisely what the terms of enrollment are before signing any kind of agreement with the instructor.
Swimming lessons do offer children the opportunity to participate in a sport they enjoy and to gain more confidence if they should have to survive in unfamiliar water. For parents, however, formal swimming lessons are like any other type of structured activities such as music lessons, dance practice or gymnastics. Be sure your child has expressed a significant interest in taking swimming lessons before enrolling him or her in a program. Learning the basics of swimming through formal swimming lessons may be enough for many children, so parents may want to consider an introductory course or teaching their children the basics of swimming themselves.