Q: I'm thinking of signing up my 1-year-old son for swimming lessons, but I can't decide--some people say lessons help make babies water-safe; others say they make young children overly confident. What's your take on it?
A: Many experts recommend swimming lessons only after the age of 4, but I disagree. While I certainly do believe that children can't possibly be water-safe until they're at least 4 years old--and actually well older than that, in my opinion--lessons at 12 months or even younger help children become comfortable in the water. When the time comes to really learn how to swim, they'll enjoy the process much more and be less fearful.
That said, giving children lessons early increases adults' responsibility to make unsupervised pool access impossible. Pool covers, fences and alarms are an absolute necessity; also, all children must be kept within arm's length of an adult whenever they're in the water. And parents must never make the mistake of assuming that just because their child has had lessons, he will be able to get himself out of trouble when in the water.