Swimming Lessons for Tots OK'd

05.25.10 Health experts change course and urge pool time instruction for children 4 and younger.

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With summer just around the corner, parents should consider swimming lessons for most children ages 1 and 4, USA Today reports. For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines in the journal Pediatrics on drowning prevention and water safety.

In the past, the AAP discouraged swimming lessons for this age group, citing a lack of evidence on whether these young children were developmentally ready. The new guidelines do not apply to all children in this age group: The AAP still does not recommend lessons for children younger than 1; and those with motor or cognitive disabilities may not be ready for pool instruction until older.

Children need to learn to swim, according to the authors of the Pediatrics report. But they also warn parents and caregivers not to associate swimming lessons with what they call "drown proofing."

In the Pediatrics report, the AAP, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and other groups are jointly recommending a multilayer safety approach to kids' pool time because, as they point out, even children with advanced swimming skills can still drown.

In addition to formal lessons, USA Today reports that the groups are urging parents and caregivers to follow these tips:

  • If you own a pool, enclose it in a four-sided fence that's at least four feet high.
  • Make sure any pool you use is equipped with safe drain covers that prevent suction injuries and deaths.
  • Learn CPR and water-rescue skills. Also, have a phone within reach.
  • And most importantly, supervise children constantly and closely.

If you do start early with the pool time, our experts suggest keeping your baby's sessions short to avoid overstimulation. If you do enroll your baby in swimming lessons, make sure to find a certified instructor and, if possible, observe a lesson before joining.

Remember, safety first when planning to be outdoors a lot this summer! Check out these sun safety tips for baby—and moms and moms-to-be, too! And if you're expecting, browse through our bohemian-inspired and classic black maternity swimsuits to get you thinking about fun in the sun!

Also, one thing you might not be thinking about when it comes to sun safety: baby shades. Pick up a pair of this cool accessory to help protect your little one's beautiful eyes!

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.