Swim Lessons For Babies [What To Expect For Every Age Range]

Swim safety is so important! It has always been a priority of mine, especially living in Southern California, for my children to learn water safety early on. However, I know how confusing finding the right swim lessons can be as a first time parent. There are a lot of different kinds of swim lessons for babies out there and it’s hard to know exactly what you should be looking for.

Not to mention, what should your expectations be? How do you know who to trust? We are here to help you out by summing up what to expect from swim lessons at each age range.

A Breakdown of the Different Types of Swim Lessons

For the most part, swim lessons for babies fall into 2 categories; traditional and ISR. You should look at both options carefully and then decide what is right for you and your baby.

Traditional swim lessons typically take place 1-2 times a week in a group setting. They will focus on helping your baby feel comfortable in the water, learning to float, hold their breath, and kick their legs. Parents sometimes get in the pool with their little ones, but it will vary lesson to lesson.

ISR lessons are 1-on-1 and focused on teaching self-rescue. Rather than longer lessons a few times a week, your baby will attend 10-minute lessons 5 times a week for 6-8 weeks. During these lessons, the instructor will teach your baby the necessary skills to survive in the water if they ever fall in.

Keep in mind, no matter what classes your baby completes, you still need to be vigilant and actively supervising your children when you are around water to prevent accidents.

Swim Lessons for Babies: Ages 6-12 Months

The AAP says there is no evidence that infant swim programs for babies under 1 year old lower the drowning risk. You can read more about the AAP swim lesson guidelines here. However, traditional swim lessons at this age can be a fun activity for parents and their babies.

If you choose to go the ISR route, you should start lessons around 6-months with a refresher every 6-12 months after.

Here is What You Can Expect from Traditional Swim Lessons at 6-12 Months

  • The priority will be getting comfortable with the water. Honestly, this is such a big step in learning to swim!
  • They’ll also learn some basic kicking and arm movements.
  • Your baby will get used to putting their face in the water, typically by learning to blow bubbles.
  • The biggest step your baby might take in these lessons is learning to float and glide.

Other Things to Know:

  • I recommend finding a swim school with smaller classes. There is no reason to waste your money sitting in a group of 15-20 parents.
  • Pack swim diapers or rubber pants.
  • Expect to get wet and come prepared in your swimsuit.

Here is What You Can Expect from ISR Lessons at 6-12 Months

  • Your baby will be dunked under the water.
  • They will learn to roll from their front onto their back and to float until help comes.

ISR can be hard to watch, so I recommend sending the parent who has an easier time seeing the baby cry or be a bit uncomfortable.

Swim Lessons for Toddlers: 12 Months-3 Years Old

Here is What You Can Expect from Traditional Swim Lessons from 12 Months-3 Years Old

  • Your child will learn to get in and out of the water on their own.
  • They will dunk their head under water and hold their breath.
  • The instructor may have your toddler start jumping off the side of the pool to you.
  • Your toddler will improve on their ability to float and get to the side of the pool.
  • They may start learning the basics of different strokes.

Things to know:

  • Always stay within arms reach – stay close to your toddler even if they seem to be a strong swimmer.
  • You will probably still be getting in the pool for a parent and me style class. Individual classes usually don’t start until children are about 4 years old.
  • Pack swim diapers
  • Ask your instructor about the possibility of your toddler wearing goggles, it may make them more comfortable under the water.

Here is What You Can Expect from ISR Lessons from 12 Months-3 Years

  • Your toddler will be dunked under the water. In some cases, they will be dunked fully clothed. This is to simulate what it would be like if there really was an accident where they fell into water.
  • They will learn to swim, then roll onto their back to float when they need air, and repeat as they make their way to the edge of the pool or shoreline.

Swim Lessons for 4 and Beyond

Ok, I guess they aren’t babies anymore, but they still have those cute chubby faces so I am going to include them in this article. Here is what to expect from your 4 year old during swim lessons.

Here is What You Can Expect from Traditional Swim Lessons at 4+

  • Your child should be able to start to use their use their arms and legs to move forward through the water.
  • They will learn to float on their back.
  • They should be able to swim towards a wall and pull themselves out of the pool on their own.
  • Your child will begin to learn different strokes and lessons will become catered to their skill-level.

Things to Know

  • This is the age where private or more individualized lesson will pay off. Your child is much more ready for the individualized attention.
  • For group lessons, choose a class with no more than 5 students per instructor. 
  • Enjoy some sun! By this age, you should not have to worry about jumping in the water during the lesson but make sure to be close by when your child is in the water and that the instructor has no more than 6 students.
  • Be wary of overconfidence – Teach your child not to go near the pool unless an adult is supervising.
  • Also teach your kids about general pool safely, like not running in the pool, making sure to find a safe way to exit the pool, and how to safely move if stuck under something in the pool.

Check out Our Pool Safety Tips for Kids & Toddlers for more information on staying safe around any body of water.

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