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At what age can children learn to swim?
Q: My daughter is 2 weeks old. At what age is it appropriate to teach a child how to swim?
Yeydie Reading
A: Yeydie, thanks for your question about swimming.

Infant and toddler water play programs are becoming more and more popular. They provide a chance to introduce your baby to playing in water and for you to enjoy playing in the water together with your baby. As long as the water is warm and the play is gentle and safe, many babies enjoy this experience.

It’s probably a good idea to wait at least a few more months, until your baby has developed good head control around 6 months of age. Other reasons to wait are that younger infants are more at risk for catching illnesses from the water and getting too cold.

Here’s a major note of caution: don’t confuse infant-toddler water play with swimming lessons. Even if your baby becomes comfortable in water, don’t think that she’s safe from drowning. The highest risk for drowning is among 1 to 2-year-olds, and infant-toddler water play programs have not been shown to reduce the risk of drowning. When you’re in or around water with your child, keep your eye on her at all times and always stay within arm’s reach.

Although some children can learn to swim in their first few years, most children are not developmentally ready to learn to swim until they’re 4 or 5 years old. For actual swimming lessons, it’s best to wait until your daughter is developmentally ready and she shows you that she wants to learn.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician