Are you a parent looking for information on when to start swimming lessons? Let me help you to make the right choice.

I have years of experience teaching swim lessons and recruiting swimming instructors. When it comes down to learning to swim, I know all the little details young parents NEED to know before signing up for swimming lessons.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • The optimal age to start swim lessons
  • Early swim lessons and child's physical development
  • Learning to swim tips
  • Critical water safety skills your children should learn according to their age
  • And more

This guide is for you if you want to drown-proof your child and not waste your money going through multiple swim schools.

Let's dive right into it!
when to start swimming lessons

When To Start Swimming Lessons? Complete Guide From Pro Swim Instructor.

By Maria Rezhylo

3x World record holder in swimming & swim school owner
Feb. 16, 2023

Formal Swim Lessons: Why Sign Up? - Wandering Parent

As I write this article, drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death among children ages 1-4. But, if you've probably heard it before.

Why do I remind you about it?

Because we swim instructors, in collaboration with parents and caregivers, should work hand in hand to prevent drowning. Swimming is more than a fun activity, but is a life-saving skill.

It's a fact that you cannot deny, and I have data to back it up.

In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics faced scary statistics: drownings almost doubled amid the COVID-19 shutdown.

In 2022, scientists released new learn-to-swim guidelines. The pediatric community urged to convince parents to start swimming lessons ASAP.

When To Start Swimming Lessons?

The latest research among children ages 1 to 19 indicates that formal swimming lessons reduce the drowning risk by 88%. The new parent and caregiver guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics state: AAP recommends swim lessons from a young age. As young as 1 year old. However, it's important to note that young child won't learn to swim fully at such an early age due to their developmental abilities. Thus, according to AAP, the best age to start swim lessons is 5 years of age.
start swim lessons

Swim Readiness Skills in Young Children


Infants and toddlers up to 2 years can benefit from formal lessons, but you shouldn't expect a whole lot.

In fact, those swim lessons won't keep your child safe in the water. Despite everything many private swim schools claim, infant swim classes give limited results.

Most children of that age have disorganized, almost reflexive swimming skills that have no practical value and relation to actual swimming.

Young children (before 2 years) are not developmentally ready to learn the whole spectrum of water survival skills to perform a self-rescue in cases of unsupervised access to the swimming pool. There's no evidence to support that infants are able to transfer early-learned skills to swimming.

Additionally, swim lessons experience can be very traumatizing at that age and ultimately affect your baby's progress moving forward.

Thus, it's better to gradually expose your children to the swimming pool on your own before they are ready to learn. In the meantime, adult supervision is required near water at all times, even when wearing life jackets.


Toddlers (2-3 years) are ready to acquire vital skills in water safety. Particularly, research indicates that toddlers of 3 years are able to learn basic water safety skills.

Typically, a child learns how to jump in the swimming pool and tread water to the side.

Additionally, at that age, many kids tend to follow good water safety habits more strictly than younger children.

Thus, formal swim lessons for children ages 3 and older can significantly decrease drowning risk. However, it's important to note that it won't be a FAST process. You'll have to get multiple lessons for 8 to 12 weeks before your children eventually learn key skills.

Older Children Learn to Swim Faster

While it's true that some children can learn skills in swimming at a young age, most kids learn how to swim after they hit 3 years mark effectively.

So, if your kid has only mastered blowing bubbles, trust me --

It's OKAY at a young age.

In fact, most studies indicate that practical lifelong skills such as entering the water, swimming, turning, and getting back to the exit were fully achieved after regular swimming lessons in 4,5-year-old kids. Additionally, AAP confirms that young children are not "developmentally ready" to effectively learn in swim lessons until they are 4.

So, all the worried parents out there, if your kid is 4 years or older, you just reached a perfect swim time! Just because they didn't start to swim early doesn't mean it's a hopeless case. It's more than usual for other kids, too.

Drowning Rates And Kid's Swimming Ability

Interestingly enough, the 4-year-old development mark closely correlates with the decreased drowning risk in kids. In fact, even young children who have taken swim lessons at the age of 1-4 are still at a high risk of a potentially lethal water accident.

If you're feeling like your child is missing out on the time they could have to spend learning, don't worry. Research proves there's no positive correlation between early lessons and faster swimming progress.

Thus, taking a step back in looking for a swim school and performing safe water exposure on your own is a better choice all around. You'll save years of paying for swimming lessons without seeing any results and bond with your kid in the pool.

And before you know it, your child is old enough to learn life-applicable water safety skills.

Until a Kid Attends Swim School, Every Parent Should:

  • 1
    Learn CPR
    Baby CPR and First Aid is a required course every parent should consider taking.
  • 2
    Block access to the pool for kids
    That means fencing a swimming pool and putting a lock on it. Make sure that lock is out of the reach of your children.
  • 3
    Put Coast Guard-approved lifejackets on kids
    Not any air-filled swimming aids, but professionally approved life jackets. Avoid water wings at all costs because they're dangerous, and your child will learn a false sense of security.
  • 4
    Maintain touch supervision at all times
    Touch supervision means keeping your kid within arm's reach everywhere. Whether you're at the home swimming pool, boating in natural bodies of water, or at the water park -- focused supervision should be maintained at all times.
  • 5
    Learn drowning stages
    That will help you to recognize signs of it and act FAST. Remember, drowning happens in a matter of SECONDS. I have a whole free guide on drowning, stages, risk factors, and more here.
  • 6
    Teach children to swim by water play
    It's true that swim lessons until 2 years of age are, well... Pretty much pointless. But exposure to the pool is not!

    Not only playing with your kids in the pool creates a stronger bond, and it's a great way to speed up the process of learning to swim! For example, try blowing bubbles or doing assisted kicking.

    Check out my comprehensive guide if you want more water exercises to do with your kid.

Choosing Among Different Swimming Instructors

I wrote a complete manual on choosing the RIGHT instructor; you can check it out here. Here's a brief overview what every parent should consider before choosing one swim school over another:

  • 1
    Check certification
    Instructor certifications signify their ability to teach kids and their willingness to invest in professional development.
  • 2
    Ask to observe a lesson or two
    It's a common practice. You want to see who you are about to hire and if they're good with the kids.
  • 3
    Be proactive
    Ask your future swim instructor questions before you pay for the classes. There are no stupid questions, and experienced instructors know that questions come from the place of care for a kid.
  • 4
    Water temperature matters
    Whether you're looking to attend an aquatic school or have lessons at your own home, make sure that the water temperature is comfortable for lessons. Remember, your kid will spend roughly 20 to 45 minutes at the pool, so the water should be warm enough for swim lessons.
I want to hear your opinion!
Have early have you started swim lessons for your baby?

How fast did they learn?

Let me know in the comments down below!