American Pediatric Doctors Ease their Past Stance against Aquatic Programs for Children Under 4 Years

I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about newspaper and magazine articles and a Today Show spot about the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) easing their past stance that aquatic programs for children under the age of four would not reduce drowing or teach swimming.  Now they cite benefits for children between the ages of 1-4 years.  

The details of the decision came to me from the folks at the World Aquatic Babies conference.  They made a statement on Monday May 24th:

“Today one of two AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) committees who issue policy statements for parent benefit spoke specifically on drowning prevention strategies. In that statement they indicated that possible benefits indicated by recent studies (see WABC Focus newsletter), is reason enough that parents, if they wish, could consider aquatic programs for children 1 year of age and older (where previously 4 years and older was the AAP permissible starting age.)

The AAP committee that speaks specifically on swimming lessons for infant toddlers has, at the moment, not changed their policy statement – crafted in 2000 & refreshed in 2004, still pointing to the 4 years of age starting standard.” 
For the information wonks in the crowd, you can find more information here.
We’re very happy that the AAP is recognizing that swim lessons for young children can reduce the risk of drowning and can teach real water skills.  However, we like to start our lessons as early as 6 months because we feel that there are benefits to these younger swimmers in getting into the water early:
  • Swimming Skills  Even an infant can start to learn the basics of breath-holding, facial submersion, gliding, and kicking.  No, they won’t be doing the butterfly or front crawl, i.e., the AAP’s objection to say that they are “swimming.”  But these little swimmers are learning the foundational skills.  Further they are getting comfortable and relaxed in the which must be in place for a child to learn to swim later
  • Swimming Safety Skills  An 8-month old can begin to learn to hold his breath and propel through the water with ease and confidence.  This skill can buy parents a few valuable extra seconds if a child does enter the pool or water unsupervised.  There is no substitute for constant vigilant supervision (see “Water Safety and Your Child” below), but this skill lays a critical foundation on which all other skills are laid.  It takes roughly 2 months to get a child to this point so we like to start at the 6 month mark
  • Improved Fitness Swimming is one of the few outside activities that a 6-month old can do.  The sooner they start from 6-months on, the more eager they are and the easier it is to avoid and overcome water anxiety issues
  • Recreation and Enjoyment Each class an an interactive recreational activity in a new exciting and engaging.  Our parents report how quickly their young swimmers learn the words  “Go Pool!”
  • Social Skills Swim class teaches young children apsects of socialization.  The learn to wait their turn and enjoy watching someone else take their turn.  Th learn to follow simple directions from simple commands such as “1-2-3-jump!” to multiple task directions
  • Relaxation and Sleeping The smooth fluid exercise and warm water that our swim classes provide helps to relax many infants and toddlers, resulting in healthy naps after class or improved sleeping patterns at night
  • Improved Cognitive and Developmental Abilities European researchers have documented that early swim programs, when taught in a child-centered methodology, have the potential to increase intelligence, concentration, alertness, and perceptual abilities.  Improvement in social, emotional, and physical development has also been published.  Of course, receiving these possible benefits takes time.  The potential increasese proportionately with your child’s comfort in the water and ability to move within it 

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