Water safety is important, even in the midst of a pandemic. Here's everything you need to know about enrolling your child in swim classes, from what to look for in a course to when to begin.
Happy little Asian girl with sunglasses smiling joyfully and enjoying family bonding time with mother, having fun in the swimming pool on Summer vacations
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Whether you live in Florida, New Mexico, or along the Jersey Shore, water safety is important. Knowing how to swim is a skill we should all have, whether you are 2 or 92. Why? Because basic water survival skills can minimize your risk of drowning. Being able to swim can save your life. But should you enroll your child in swim classes now, in the midst of a pandemic? Experts say yes. Phyllis Agran, M.D., of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), says children should take swim lessons even if they cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Swimming is a great family activity," she writes. "It's good exercise and a life-saving skill. The AAP recommends water safety and swim lessons for all children as a layer of protection against drowning. While a COVID-19 vaccine​ for younger children is not yet available, taking extra precautions can take help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure during swim lessons."

Here's everything you need to know about enrolling your child in swim lessons, from when to start to what you should look for in a class.

When Should Your Child Learn to Swim?

Children develop at different rates, and what may be right for one child may not be appropriate for another. (My toddler, for example, is developmentally behind his peers, at least in some respects.) Still, the AAP recommends swim lessons for children aged 1 and up.

"Recent studies suggest that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce drowning risk for children," the AAP writes. "Classes that include both parents and their children also are a good way to introduce good water safety habits and start building swim readiness skills [at or around the age of 1]... by their 4th birthday, most children are ready for swim lessons. At this age, they usually can learn basic water survival skills such as floating, treading water and getting to an exit point. By age 5 or 6, most children in swim lessons can master the front crawl."

"If your child hasn't already started in a learn-to-swim program, now is the time," the AAP adds.

That said, the AAP does not recommend infant swim classes, i.e. swim classes for children under 1. There is currently no evidence that infant swim classes reduce drowning risk, and while infants may (reflexively) display "swimming" movements, they can't yet raise their heads out of the water. This can pose a breathing hazard. Wait until your wee one is 12 months or older.

What Are the Benefits of Learning to Swim at a Young Age?

While water safety is important, taking swim classes at young age can actually benefit your child in numerous ways, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Strengthened lung capacity
  • Encourages muscular development
  • Helps young children develop and hone fine motor skills
  • Aids in digestion
  • Improves concentration and memory
  • Reduces stress

Swim classes also provide your child with a regular outlet—and means of exercise—and regular exercise can help improve your child's flexibility, endurance, balance, and sleep.

What Should You Look For in Swim Classes?

If you're ready to enroll your child in a swim class, great! Swim lessons are an excellent way to promote water safety and prevent drowning, especially since unintentional drowning deaths are the second leading cause of injury death among children aged zero to 17.

"Swim lessons can reduce drowning risk by 88 percent and can give children the skills they need to save themselves," says Molly O'Shea, M.D., FAAP, and the official pediatrician for Goldfish Swim Schools. "Even during COVID, these skills are essential, and swim lessons are both safe and effective. COVID-19 can't survive in properly maintained pool water, and with vaccinated and boosted staff, risk of exposure is minimized, even for young children."

But how do you choose the right class for you—and your child? You'll want to look for the following things.


According to the AAP, instructors should be trained and certified through a nationally-recognized program. They should have experience working with children, particularly young children, and there should be lifeguards on duty who have current CPR and First Aid certification.


As with most things in life, consistency is key. Look for a program which meets frequently and regularly. Aim for weekly lessons, if possible.


To make swim lessons go as smoothly as possibly, you can (and should) select an environment which is conducive to your child's health and well-being. According to the AAP, "swim and water safety classes for children age 3 and younger should be in water heated to 87 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit," as hyperthermia is a real risk at this age. The pool should also be chemically balanced. "Young children are more likely to swallow or breathe in water, so water disinfection and maintaining proper chlorine levels is really important," the AAP adds.

Parental interaction

Parents of young children may want to look for a program which includes parental interaction. "Parent participation should be encouraged, especially since it also helps families know what to practice in between classes," the AAP writes.

"If you can't be in the water with your child, look for private classes that offer 1-on-1 instruction."

General water safety

While swim classes will teach your child how to swim, the best classes are the ones which also promote water safety. "Children should learn to never swim alone or without adult supervision," the AAP explains. "Instructors should teach children to always ask for permission from parents, lifeguards, or swimming instructors before they get into a pool or natural bodies of water, like a lake." And while children should not be afraid of the water, they should have respect for it. Good swim classes will also teach your child what to do if they end up in the water unexpectedly.