A common question I am asked each year is what age is best for a child to start swimming lessons, and how young is too young? This is frequently followed by how much to push them to try harder in their swimming lessons. Each season of life comes with a new adventure, a new challenge, and a new understanding of what it means to help someone else grow. However, for years I have witnessed the struggle over when to push your children and encourage them to swim. Canadians, in general, are kind, fast-paced, and adventurous people who have a desire to explore and see the beauty in the world around us. But for those of us living in BC, you know that you can not get very far before being offered a variety of activities involving the water. We live near the ocean, surrounded by rivers, lakes and both public and private pools; swimming opportunities are everywhere and a part of every season. Unfortunately, many people do not realize how essential it is to be confident in the water and therefore underestimate this life skill.
My best advice is to start as soon as possible: parent and tot classes begin at four months, kids can go in lessons independently at three years old, or privately with an instructor as soon as they can talk. Everyone, including adults, should start as soon as they are willing. The willingness and courage to learn will undoubtedly benefit you down the road. I believe it is hard to avoid water all your life. For parents, in particular, I often ask: “How do you want your child to feel when they come into contact with the water?” The replies always have one common factor: they want their child to have confidence.
So what is the next step?
It is my personal experience that starting young will improve the retention of skills and reduces the risk of drowning, and it will improve their chances of enjoying swimming.
We face a new normal right now, and this means that vacation time is a staycation. Staycation time is forcing us to be creative; however, surveys are showing the increased risk of drowning due to overconfidence in the water is rising. Studies suggest that those who usually do not swim regularly are now more frequently entering uncontrolled environments such as rivers, lakes and oceans unaware of potential risk or overconfident in their own abilities.
While this statistic is not one that we wish to see a rise in British Columbia, its essential for those of us entering the water that we are careful, we are not alone or under the influence. It is crucial that we do know our own strength and that we know what to do in dangerous scenarios. This all starts at your home pool, creating an environment to learn safely and to practice and develop skills that are lifesaving. Starting with our kids, we can help them build confidence and watch them progress at an accelerated speed through private swim instructing.
If you want further information on why healthcare recommends starting infants young with swimming, this article is excellent: https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/infant-swimming#improves-cognitive-functioning.
For more information regarding BC statistics on overconfidence this summer, please see:https://bc.ctvnews.ca/don-t-overestimate-your-swimming-ability-b-c-report-on-drowning-warns-1.5046792?cache&fbclid=IwAR1Jr5Cue3Fayuzb5d6WDAZ-OOANx9wnXqO6s8fCkkA_qs38bwAPyWeJHXE