My Definition of Swimming and Swimming Skill Benchmarks
What does it mean to learn to swim? In an effort to help my “swim lessons parents” understand what a child can potentially learn at a variety of ages, I developed a list of “Swimming Skill Benchmarks” for infants, toddlers, and young children. Because the question, “How long will it take my child to learn to swim” is asked so often, I thought it would be helpful to define swimming in terms of a child’s reasonable capabilities at a variety of ages. This, of course, is assuming the child is being instructed by a swimming professional (not your local pool lifeguard).
While I don’t believe it is necessary or even a good idea for children should to be enrolled in swimming lessons 12 months out of the year, I do believe that learning to swim should be TOP PRIORITY and even take priority over other activities (if necessary). To clarify further, my own children participate in a variety of activities for both fitness and skill acquisition, i.e., soccer, basketball, karate, and gymnastics to name a few. Nevertheless–it is my professional opinion as both a physical educator and water safety professional every child should be able to swim freestyle and backstroke across a pool (5 year old benchmark below) by 6 years of age. AND I don’t think that spending month after month in other activities INSTEAD of learning to swim, for example, is a good idea. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children age five and under for a reason, and while learning to swim should never replace Constant Adult Supervision–it does save many more lives than t-ball, soccer, dance, etc.
It is very important to me that the following set of benchmarks be used to help parents understand what their child is capable of doing in terms of swimming skills, but this list should NEVER be used as a critique of any kind. Children should be allowed to progress at their own pace in a child-friendly, child-centered environment. FOR YOUR CHILD’S SAKE–KEEP THESE SIMPLE GUIDELINES IN MIND:
- Encourage and complement your child on what he/she is doing well.
- Leave the constructive criticisms to the teacher.
- Love and support your child unconditionally.
You want your child to develop a life long love affair with the water. Allow him/her to progess at their own pace. With that in mind, here are my SWIMMING SKILL BENCHMARKS:
3 months: Baby is capable of happily having water gently poured over the head using our conditioning method (as shown in my Bathtub Baby 101 DVD available on our website for just $19.00).
6 months: Baby is capable of performing a “brief underwater pass” with our Parent & Me class experiences.
12 months: Baby is capable of a “brief underwater swim” with our Parent & Me class experiences.
18 months: Toddler is capable of maneuvering himself thru the water for 3-5 seconds using the legs for propulsion (independently from mom/dad to the teacher) with our Parent & Me class experiences.
24 – 36 months:
- Toddler is capable of getting back to the side of the pool from a sitting entry with our Parent & Me class experiences.
- 30 months: Toddler is capable of swimming with face in the water for 7-10 feet with our Parent & Me class experiences.
- 36 months: Toddler is capable of getting back to the side of the pool from a standing entry with our Parent & Me class experiences.
3 ½ years: Child is capable of swimming with the face in the water and breathing as needed using a “pop-up breath” or “roll-over breath” with our Swim 101 class experiences.
4 years: Child is capable of swimming freestyle with the face-in-the-water for 20 feet with our Swim Strokes 201 class experiences.
5 years: Child is capable of swimming Freestyle with side breathing and Backstroke for 30 feet with our Swim Strokes 201 class experiences.
6 years: Child is capable of swimming a 100-yard individual medley (25 yards of each stroke: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) competently with Advanced Swim Strokes 301 class and our entry-level swim team class experiences.