Swim Safety (and Fun) for Babies

Aqua Ed

Baby splashing in water

Thinking about swim lessons? Sign your baby up after her first birthday. Most swim schools teach babies 6 months and older, but the AAP doesn't recommend formal programs until 12 months. Why? There's no proof they're beneficial, and the health risks of swallowing water are greater before 1 year. Instruction for tots older than a year is not only safe but may help prevent drowning, new evidence suggests. Here's the splashdown on swim-school specifics:

What will baby learn in class?
First she'll get used to being in the water. She'll pick up basic skills such as how to kick, blow bubbles, pull with her arms, and get her face wet. Eventually she'll dunk and -- when she's a wee bit older, around 3 or 4 -- take off swimming!

Should she wear a lifejacket?
Not during lessons, Harvey says. "You want her to know what it's like to be in the water without a flotation device." Plus, a vest puts Baby in a vertical position, which is unnatural for swimming.

What kind of class is best?
Seek out small-group lessons with up to ten caregiver-baby pairs. Look for a fun atmosphere with a relaxed, flexible pace. Instructors should be nationally certified by an organization such as the American Red Cross.

Where can I find a good program?
Try your local American Red Cross chapter, YMCA, or parks and recreation department.

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