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Old 12-08-2009, 06:30   #1
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At What Age Can They Swim?

I have been taking my two boys tot he swiming pool and the beach regularly in order to prepare for our cruise around the caribbean starting in December and was wondering at what age they will be able to properly swim. (i mean keep their heads above water all by themsleves?) Both of them are confident in the water especially my littelest who is 14 months - he puts his head right under and seems to love it. I don't use armbands because a swimming teacher friend told me that they learn faster without, however both of them need an adult to hold them at all time in the water when out of thier depth or they would literally drown!

Thier ages will be three years and 19 months when we take them on the boat, is it unrealistic to think they could swim by then?


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Old 12-08-2009, 06:36   #2
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I have taught many children to swim. Very young children have a reflex which can be used to teach them to hold their breath but they will lose this unless they swim all the time. If they DO swim all the time they can learn to swim on their own by an age not much older than old enough to walk - swimming requires much the same level of coordination but doesnt require as much weight bearing.

However, it would be extremely very horribly foolish to get complacent AT ALL about any young child's swimming ability. As a former life guard I would NEVER EVER leave children younger than teenage without supervision. That may seem extreme, but the fact is children often have no sense and it takes a remarkably short amount of time to drown. If you are taking them on a boat I would get the most comfortable life jackets available for them and make them wear them. I would get tethers and jacklines. I would put netting in the lifelines. Even one mistake is one too many.

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Old 12-08-2009, 06:46   #3
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I taught swimming lessons for many years from water babies to adults. The youngest child I ever had that could go from one end of a pool to another was 3 years old. However, that distance was really taxing for him, and he only did it once to pass the class. When he was just paddling around, he needed to go to the side often to rest. In open water, there is no way I would let kids under 10 in the water without extreme supervision. All a young, inexperienced needs is to catch a wave in the face, choke on a little water, and they're done for.

You're doing the right thing by teaching the kids to swim young. Drownproofing by teaching them to relax and float in the water will help to keep them calm if they fall in, so they don't panic and fight the water. But DO NOT leave those kids unsupervised.

Good luck.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:09   #4
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Mine have been able to swim without a floatie by the time they're 3 or 4- but ditto to the above comments. The ocean is not a pool.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:53   #5
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There's a body of information on teaching babies to survive in the water and to swim. Google "Baby Swimming" to see some examples.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:59   #6
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Wow so many swim instructors on the board, great. Many moons ago I did my stint as a pool and beach Life Guard after swimming competitively throughout high school and AAU. Well before Bay watch, ATVs, wave runners, patrol boats and two way radios. It was a whistle, Torpedo and a long board. Part of our responsibilities was to teach swimming to all ages. I agree with the above posts as well. Children should be well supervised. Swimming is not just learning the basic strokes and being able to do a few laps in the pool. This goes for adults as well. It's been my experience that most people, even though they believe so, just can't swim well outside of a very controlled environment. I lost count on how many people we pulled out of Haulover beach that after only two to five minutes were in serious trouble and totally exhausted. This is why I have more than one tossable floatation device. I don't always require adults to wear life jackets on board considering conditions. But if you go over on my boat, you will be surrounded by two more life rings, extra life jackets, coolers, jugs, anything I can get my hands on. Rant over.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:01   #7
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Any age. I have seen kids swimming well befor they could walk.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:11   #8
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Our three year old is now swimming very well on his own without the use of any flotation device at all. I did not use arm bands with him - as someone mentioned, the arm bands will slow down their learning considerably. We did use a swim vest with removable flotation panels and removed the panels as he gained coordination and confidence. Within a couple of weeks of daily swimming, he was on his own. He is the youngest of our five kids and learned the quickest using the swim vest. With our two oldest, we tried the arm bands with very poor results.
As many have mentioned here, we do not allow them to swim without adult supervision, especially the younger ones. When our three year old is in the pool, I am always within a couple of feet of him. Things can happen very fast.
Don't get me wrong here - our youngest is not any olympic swimmer or anything. But he is well able to swim on his own if he happens to fall off the dock or boat. Once again, safety first - they are never allowed on the dock or boat without PFD's.

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Old 12-08-2009, 20:49   #9
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Our little guy was swimming by just before his 3rd birthday on his own. But he tired easily at that age. Now he just turned 5 and is quite a fish, diving down to 6+ feet to get coins and holding his own completely.

Two things I always tell others who ooo and ahh at his swimming.

(1) It takes work. LOTS of it on the part of the parents. We took him to the pool EVERY week, TWICE a week for about 3 straight years. Indoors pools in the winter, and just about everyday at our marina pool in summer. Some days he sat on the steps and did nothing. Some days he made great strides. But we never missed a week. And we never "forced" him to do anything, always made it fun. (also never used a flotation aid)

(2) As others have said, we still watch him like a hawk and use PFD's aboard. In the pool he's getting into that experimentation age and has gotten into trouble (got stuck under a bar he was trying to shimmy under in a lap pool, etc)
On the boat/ docks I always use my dear husband as an example, he fell in off the dock just before my son was born and broke 3 ribs banging up on the way down. My son protests, "I don't need a life jacket, I'm a good swimmer now!" And I say, "Nobody is a good swimmer with broken bones or a banged up head."
And we still use flotation for ocean swimming beyond his waist because, well, he's a little guy and it's a big ocean.
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Old 12-08-2009, 21:06   #10
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It seems that for children, swimming is only one out of three tools to minimize the chance of drowning. The other two tools are a life jacket and adult supervision. Kids really should have all three at all times when near the water.

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Old 13-08-2009, 02:11   #11
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Thanks everyone,

I shall certainly look up some more about swimming for kids as mentioned. They already have lifejackets and we will definately be using all preventative measures possible to ensure their safety. I was brought up on boats myself and remember swimming loads so want my boys to enjoy it as much as I did and to be able to have fun and be confident on the beach and when we swim together in anchorages etc.

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Old 13-08-2009, 04:01   #12
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Originally Posted by David M View Post
It seems that for children, swimming is only one out of three tools to minimize the chance of drowning. The other two tools are a life jacket and adult supervision. Kids really should have all three at all times when near the water.
Swimming lessons can start in the baby bath after birth as soon as the umbilical cord has healed. Babies under 6 months of age should not be taken into public pools. Their immune system is still immature before then and incapable of coping with common waterborne germs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says not to teach kids younger than 3 to swim, because you and they will get overconfident and the kid might ingest too much water. The American Red Cross, on the other hand, does parent-and-child Aquatics classes for kids as young as 6 months, but recommends waiting until age 5-6 for real swimming lessons.

There is nothing more effective to prevent drowning than constant supervision, within arms length of the child, in conjunction with swimming lessons by suitably qualified instructors, who focus primarily on safe behaviour (including the use of PFDs) in and around water. Instructors who focus entirely on getting the child to stay afloat or to swim at the expense of spending time establishing a safe behaviour pattern before all else, are considered to be putting the child at a greater risk of drowning.
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Old 03-12-2009, 03:37   #13
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took both my boys as babies sailing. Buy a small pair of flippers, no armbands, no mask, they just kick and went!!!!
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Old 09-04-2010, 20:46   #14
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My son turned 3 at the beginning of January. We joined the local Delaware YMCA at the end of January(I heard they always waive the joiner fee in Jan) and try to get there as much as possible. Usually this means a couple times a week or more. On the 18th of March he passed their swim test and can now 'swim on his own' though someone, mainly me is always in the water, or near by watching. He can stay away from the wall for a seemingly endless amount of time, and is an amazing diver.

Of course this was not his first time in the water, but this is when we started going regularly, and he started with a float suit from Walmart that was a just a little bit large for him and would slide up some, but it was still enough to keep his head above the water. Most are quite surprised at how well he can do at such a young age, but he was never afraid of the water. He can go down to the bottom of the 9ft end of the pool and retrieve his toys. Diving down is always a dangerous activity regardless of age and children should always have very close supervision but it is something that he loves to do.

Just started him on fins from the YMCA last week and he seems to like them quite a bit, but only for short periods of time. At this age I don't think that they have enough of an attention span for swim lessons, but just letting them explore while you are within arms reach will help them out a lot.

His grandmother had to take videos to work because some coworkers just couldn't believe it.

Note that this is in a 4 lane pool, crystal clear water, me by his side, with a lifeguard on duty.

Every child will learn at their own pace, just have to let THEM set the pace, and you follow their lead.
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Old 09-04-2010, 21:22   #15
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My girls went to swimming lessons at 6 months - drownproofing lessons really.

By the time they were two they were like fish and spent more time under water than treading water. Great exercise for them and terrific for their spatial development - my youngest is now a National level gymnast.

We are lucky to have a great summer and a mild winter so swimming can be all year round in an indoor pool.

The kids here thrive on it but even strong swimming is no replacement for supervision.

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