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Swimming Lessons Approved for Infants and Toddlers
by William Stratbucker, MD on 05/28/2010 at 6:51 AM

Dan McGee, MD, a pediatrician and hospital medicine specialist is our guest blogger this week.


As the parent of two former competitive swimmers, I am a big advocate for swimming. I couldn't be happier with the recently revised American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on swimming for infants and toddlers.


New evidence suggests children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction. The academy is now recommending parents enroll their children in swim lessons based on individual readiness, including the child's frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health concerns related to pool water infections and pool chemicals versus sheer age alone.


Regardless of age, I support the following American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and encourage you and your family to observe the guidelines as many of you look forward to a long holiday weekend.


  • Never - even for a moment - leave small children alone or in the care of another young child while in bathtubs, pools, spas or wading pools, or near irrigation ditches or standing water. Bath seats cannot substitute for adult supervision. Empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use.
  • Closely supervise children in and around water. With infants, toddlers and weak swimmers, an adult should be within an arm's length. With older children and better swimmers, an adult should be focused on the child and not distracted by other activities.
  • If children are in out-of-home child care, ask about exposure to water and the ratio of adults to children.
  • If you have a pool, install a four-sided fence that is at least four feet high to limit access to the pool. The fence should be hard to climb and have a self-latching, self-closing gate. Families may consider pool alarms and rigid pool covers as additional layers of protection, but neither can take the place of a fence.
  • Children need to learn to swim. Classes may reduce the risk of drowning in younger children as well, but, because children develop at different rates, not all children will be ready to swim at the same age.
  • Parents, caregivers and pool owners should learn CPR.
  • Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as inflatable arm bands, in place of life jackets. They can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • All children should wear a life jacket when riding in a boat. Small children and nonswimmers should also wear one at water's edge, such as on a river bank or pier.
  • Parents should know the depth of the water and any underwater hazards before allowing children to jump in. The first time you enter the water, jump feet first; don't dive.
  • When choosing an open body of water for children to swim in, select a site with lifeguards. Swimmers should know what to do in case of rip currents

- Dr. McGee

Add Comment
Comment posted by Anonymous on 05/28/2010 at 1:10 PM
I started my babies swimming very early. My son at 6 months. It was so much fun, he loved the water and it was a great time for baby and Mother. He complted all the YMCA'a programs for swimming by age 5 and started swim teams at the age of 7. In high school he was a star on his schools team. I am looking forward to teaching my new little granddaughter as soon as possible. Great fun in fact I am thinking of getting certificed to teach little ones.... I miss the connection with little people they are so great to hang out with. Smiles