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Swimming Milestones

Swimming milestones for your child begin with her becoming comfortable in the water followed by basic aquatic safety and swim skills. Later, swim stroke development can lead to competitive swimming. Because children acquire developmental skills at different rates, most learn-to-swim programs are designed around your child’s physical, cognitive and emotional readiness, rather than her age.


Aquatic Readiness

In light of research showing that swim instruction may decrease drowning in children 1 to 4 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics has relaxed its earlier position that your child is not developmentally ready for formal swim lessons before his fourth birthday. When determining the right time for him to start swimming, the World Aquatic Babies and Children Network recommends considering the frequency of exposure to water, health concerns, and your child’s emotional maturity as well as her physical limitations.


Water Acclimation

“Water acclimation, overcoming fear and being comfortable in the water, is an important first step in seeing swimming as a positive and enjoyable experience,” reports Jennifer C. White of Starfish Aquatics Institute (SAI), a national Learn to Swim Provider for the Make a Splash national child-focused water safety initiative created by the USA Swimming Foundation. Safety goes hand-in-hand with swimming, adds White, explaining that water safety skills are taught in tandem with swimming skills in a fun environment with positive reinforcement to promote an enjoyable swimming experience.


Progressive Basic Swim and Safety Skills

While learning to swim is one of the physical milestones a child may reach by age 5, explains Mayo Clinic, every child develops at her own pace. Taking this into consideration, USA Swimming recommends following an established skill upon skill development program through swim lessons rather than moving a child through a program based on age. Children who take lessons through one of USA Swimming Foundation’s National Learn to Swim providers, including YMCA of the USA, American Red Cross and Starfish Aquatics Institute, progress through important swimming milestones after water acclimation. These milestones include breath control, submersion, floating, and then basic aquatic locomotion such as gliding, dog paddling, and later, beginning freestyle.


Competitive Stroke Development

Once your child has reached the milestone of being able to swim a length of the pool with a basic freestyle that includes rhythmic breathing, he will be ready for a bridge program where he can build his endurance and work on learning and refining all four competitive swim strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Often referred to as pre-team or stroke school, explains USA Swimming, these classes bridge the gap between learn-to-swim and competitive programs and may prepare a swimmer to join a swim team.

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