How old does my child need to be to learn to swim?

Learning to swim has so many benefits. Not only does swimming build motor skills, provide numerous health benefits, and improve cognitive function, but it can also reduce your likelihood of drowning by up to 88% in children ages 1 to 4––which makes it a life saving skill. But despite a parent’s desire for their children to learn to swim, a lot of parents wonder what age is appropriate for them to start.

The truth is that the answer is different for everyone. However, this blog will help you better understand the subtlety and nuance of water readiness and to help determine what is right for you. One theme that you will see throughout this blog is that it is important not to compare yourself to anyone else’s swimming journey, and that it is never too late to learn to swim!

Water Readiness and Safety

Water readiness and safety are paramount considerations for parents that want to introduce their children to swimming lessons. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it is crucial to recognize that water readiness goes beyond a specific age. Instead, it hinges on a child’s physical development, emotional readiness, cognitive development, and exposure to water environments. These factors acknowledge that every child is unique, and that the age at which they are ready to start learning to swim or engage in water-related activities can vary significantly.

Physical Development: A child’s physical readiness for water activities is a crucial aspect of water readiness. It encompasses their motor skills, strength, and coordination. Some children may naturally demonstrate better physical readiness at an earlier age, while others may require more time to develop the necessary skills. For instance, basic motor skills like crawling, walking, and balance are essential for safe exploration of water environments. 

Emotional Readiness: Water can evoke a range of emotions in children, from excitement and curiosity to fear and apprehension. Emotional readiness involves a child’s comfort level around water and their ability to manage any anxiety or fear associated with it. This aspect varies greatly from child to child and depends on their individual temperament and past experiences with water.

Cognitive Development: Cognitive readiness encompasses a child’s ability to understand and follow safety instructions and rules related to water. It involves concepts like cause and effect, as well as the capacity to process information and make decisions.

Exposure to Water: Familiarity with water through positive and supervised experiences is a critical component of water readiness. Regular exposure to water, even from a very young age, can help children become more comfortable and confident around it.

According to water safety experts, children as young as two months old can begin to familiarize themselves with the water under the instruction of a professional and constant supervision from a parent. Early introduction to water not only builds comfort but also lays the foundation for essential water safety skills.

It is important to emphasize that regardless of when you decide to start swimming lessons, consistent supervision and water safety practices should remain non-negotiable. Our focus should always be on equipping our children with the knowledge and skills to enjoy the water safely, fostering a lifetime of confidence and respect for various water environments.

Parent and Child Swimming Programs

Parent and child swimming programs are a great way to foster early water familiarity and build essential aquatic skills in our youngest family members. With you right beside them, babies feel safe and comfortable in engaging in what can sometimes be a scary and unfamiliar experience (it also provides a unique opportunity for bonding!). Together, you will embark on a shared adventure through gentle, structured activities that focus on enhancing water comfort, safety, and even the foundation for future swimming skills.

We have been offering baby swimming lessons for over 20 years, and have seen first hand the amazing benefits that water activities have on a baby’s development. You can read more here. Our Parent and Tot swimming classes teach babies as young as 2 months old and up to 30 months old. The first level introduces your child to fundamental aquatic skills that include breathing control, buoyancy and balance in the water. The second level begins to introduce your child to propulsion, how to move through the water. 

Considerations for Older Children and Adolescents

Introducing older children to swimming often raises valid concerns for parents, ranging from worries about water safety to apprehensions about their child’s comfort level and ability to catch up with their peers. It’s crucial for parents to recognize that it’s never too late for a child to learn to swim and that they will reap the lifelong benefits of water competency no matter what age they begin lessons.

Quality swim programs tailored to older beginners will emphasize a supportive and gradual approach, ensuring that children can progress at their own pace! Furthermore, dedicated instructors will be adept at addressing any fears or anxieties, helping older children build confidence and embrace the water with enthusiasm.

Remember that swimming is a life saving skill that can enrich anyone’s physical fitness, boosting self-esteem, and providing invaluable safety knowledge. By addressing any of your child’s concerns with care (and enrolling your child in an appropriate swimming program!), you can nurture a positive and fulfilling aquatic journey for your older child.

Finding the Right Swimming Program

Finding the right swimming program is not just about matching schedules or convenient locations; it’s about aligning with an approach that values gradual progression, meeting the swimmer at their level, and having small class sizes.

This philosophy recognizes that each individual, regardless of age or prior experience, has unique strengths, weaknesses, and comfort levels in the water. A program that prioritizes gradual progression ensures that swimmers are not rushed or pushed beyond their capabilities, reducing the risk of fear or burnout.

By meeting swimmers where they are, instructors can build a strong foundation, instill confidence, and foster a positive relationship with the water. This approach not only maximizes safety but also enhances the overall swimming experience, making it enjoyable––which is arguably the most important part of a child’s swimming experience!

Lastly, small class sizes ensure that the coach is better able to attend to the unique needs of every student. At Making Waves, our classes have one coach for every four students in most of our classes.


As much as we hope that this blog helped you better understand what age to teach your children to learn to swim, we also encourage you to work with your swimming coaches to make sure the program you choose is the right fit for you. Swimming and water readiness is an individual experience and is best to evaluate with a professional rather than by a strict age guideline.

What is most important when your child starts swimming lessons, no matter their age, is that you are patient, supportive, and foster a caring environment.