Latest study says starting swimming lessons with children under age 4 has benefits

Staff Report

LOVES PARK—What’s the right age to start swimming lessons? Videos across the web show infants less than a year old “swimming,” while many pediatricians insist you shouldn’t start formal lessons before your child is 4 years old. New research shows swim lessons for infants as young as 4 months old can improve not only water safety but coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and social development.

The latest research supports what water safety experts and many parents have known for years—early exposure to water and water safety should begin in infancy. Parent-infant swim lessons with infants as young as 4 months old can help prevent drowning. According to the research done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Develoment (NICHHD) for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), early swimming lessons do not increase children’s risk of drowning, as once was believed, but more likely have a “protective effect against drowning.”

While infant swim classes like Baby Swim! offered by the Dolphin Swim Club in Loves Park won’t teach your 8-month-old the freestyle or breast stroke, they will learn important skills that will make learning to swim easier and earlier. By teaching infants and their parents the building blocks for swimming–safety, water comfort, floating, kicks and moving through the water–they will progress faster in swimming lessons. And they’ll be safer around the water.

“It’s important that parents understand no swim lessons can ‘drown proof’ a child,” said Sara Batchelor, Dolphin Swim Club facility manager. “But the right swim program can be an important part of keeping kids of all ages safer around water and help them learn to swim faster when they are physically ready to learn the strokes.”

Early swim classes have benefits far beyond water safety and early swimming skills. Smart classes like the ones offered by Dolphin Swim Club develop social skills, coordination as well as fine and gross motor skills. The result is healthier kids.

What should the right infant or toddler swimming program include? For starters, parent-child classes should:

— Teach parents water safety;

Emphasize the importance of being within arm’s reach of your child when they’re around water;

Take place in warm water to ensure the child is comfortable and enjoys the experience;

Encourage parent-child bonding; and

Be taught by experienced, qualified instructors who understand how and when to properly submerge young children.

Dolphin Swim Club has been offering swim lessons to all ages, including infants and toddlers, for nearly 20 years. Dolphin Swim Club has ongoing registration at its locations in Loves Park, Crystal Lake, South Beloit and Skokie, so call (815) 282-3488 now to get the class that fits your busy schedule.

Dolphin Swim Club is a warm water, learn-to-swim facility committed to bringing confidence, self-esteem and safety to every child. The club opened in 1992 in Rockford, Ill., and built its first facility in nearby Loves Park in 1997. Nine years later, Dolphin expanded into the Chicagoland area with a school in Crystal Lake, where it now operates a new 8,800-square-foot facility at 825 Munshaw Road.

The club also offers swim lessons in South Beloit, Ill., and Skokie, Ill. In addition to offering lessons for children, Dolphin has baby swim classes, water aerobics, open swims, parties and a variety of other activities. Enrollment for lessons is now open for all locations. For more information, call (815) 282-3488.

From the April 13-19, 2011 issue

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