Here’s a question every parent wants to know the answer to: How long will it take my child to learn to swim? What parents want to know mostly is how long before their kids acquire the most important water safety skills necessary to save themselves from drowning (please keep in mind that no child is ever drown-proof; always supervise your children carefully).
A truthful answer is: there is no universal answer because each child is different. The process of learning to swim depends on many factors (we will discuss the most important ones later in the article).
Age-by-Age, here are some guidelines on how long it takes kids to learn to swim independently and to learn to save themselves from drowning:
(we are assuming children attend weekly 30mins private swim lessons, all year round):
- Babies who begin to learn to swim between the ages of 6mo-18mo old will take around a year and a half to two years to learn swim independently and to be safe in the water (78-104 swim lessons)
- Children who start swimming lessons between the ages of 18mo -3 years old will take about one year to learn to be safe in the water (about 52 swim lessons)
- Children older than 3 years old with no previous swimming experience will take about 6 months to one year to learn to be safe in the water (24-52 swim lessons)
In group lessons, the process of learning to swim is slower.
Our advice: The best age for your child to begin the process of learning to swim is as close to 6mo as possible. The sooner your child begins to learn to swim, the sooner they will learn be safe in the water.
Now let’s take a look at the most important factors that come into play when learning to swim: the consistency and frequency of the lessons, fear of water, motor skills and natural abilities, group vs. private swimming lessons, age.
Once kids begin the process of learning to swim, consistency is key. It is important to keep the lessons/pool visits consistent as much as possible and to not take long breaks from swimming until the child can swim independently. A consistent swimming schedule allows for muscle memory to form and keeps the progress going. If your child gets sick, give them the appropriate time to recover, then resume swimming as soon as possible. Taking breaks from swimming (e.g. during the winter months) will set back the learning process, as the child will have to reacclimate with the water or relearn previously learned skills upon resuming swimming.
Most parents opt for having their children swim once a week due to busy schedules or financial aspects – in this case, it’s important to keep the lessons consistent. Swimming twice a week or more allows for great progress and helps children learn faster. Additionally, practicing with your kid is a great way to help them learn faster and increase their confidence in the water.
3. Fear of water
Children who are introduced to the water at an early age and in a positive manner are more likely to develop a love for the water and not be afraid – which will help them learn to swim faster. For a child afraid of water, learning to swim may take longer. It’s important to first help kids overcome their fear of water and find the joy of learning to swim. Parents can take an active role in helping children fearful of water by taking them to the swimming pool whenever possible. Be gentle and help your child feel safe rather than trying to teach them swimming skills on the first visits. To ensure a positive learning experience, work at the child’s pace. Once the little swimmer is relaxed and happy in the water, learning skills such as submerging the face, or the back float will come easier.
Our advice: The arm bands are very popular for toddler swimming lessons and many parents opt for them. However, it’s recommended to avoid using arm bands because don’t help in teaching kids to swim.
4. Motor skills and natural abilities
Physical abilities, coordination, motor skills – all play a role in how quickly a child will learn to swim. Learning to swim comes easier to children with good natural abilities. Children who have motor skills difficulties may take longer to learn – this should be expected, so the parent and instructor should be patient and work at the child’s pace. For those children, swimming lessons not only help them learn to swim, but also help them improve their motor skills and coordination.
5. Private swimming versus group swimming lessons
The dynamic between private swimming lessons and group swimming lessons is different. Children enrolled in private lessons will learn to swim faster, as all the attention of the swimming instructor goes to the child. The instructor can individualize the class to the child’s needs and can concentrate on areas the child needs most attention.
The downside of group lessons for non-swimmers is that children spend most of the lesson waiting for their turn and they don’t get that much one-on-one attention or even actual swimming time. One positive aspect of group lessons for beginners is that some children can get motivated to learn by watching and playing with their peers in the water.
6. Your child’s age when they start swim lessons
Do 5 year olds learn to be safe in the water quicker than 2 year olds or than children who start swimming at 6 months old? It depends…on all the factors described so far. In general babies younger than 18 months old don’t have a fear of water, which is such a plus when learning to swim. To teach a 2 year old to swim and find out the swimming skills they are able to learn, read: 2 year old swimming ability.
So with consistent and frequent lessons they can learn breath control, the back float, how to roll from front to back and other water safety skills, just as fast as 5 year olds learn the same skills. Children who start learning at an younger age will become more comfortable and natural in the water at that younger age. Just because a child starts learning to swim at an older age does not mean they will learn faster. Especially if the child has already developed a fear of water or has difficulties learning the correct arm and leg movements used in swimming.
Time-Lapse of 9mo Learning To Swim
Teaching your child to swim is an investment in the child’s safety, physical and emotional well being and in helping them acquire a lifelong skill. We encourage you to introduce your kids to the water at 6 months or at the earliest possible age. The process of learning to swim should be fun and customized to each child’s pace. Keep in mind that no two children are alike and avoid comparing your child’s progress with the progress of other children. Your child is unique so their process of learning to swim will be unique.
Parents can take an active role in teaching their children to swim. Teach Your Child To Swim™ was especially designed for parents who want to help their kids learn to swim step by step and be safe in the water: www.teachyourchildtoswim.com
If you have any questions for us, post them on our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/teachyourchildtoswim/Gilda Dobrica