Do you remember your first summers swimming at the pool? I remember my mom taking me to the baby pool at Lynch Field public pool in my hometown of Greensburg, PA. All of our friends were there splashing around and bathing in the sun. Swimming was all about having lessons

As I became a mom (to my two beautiful daughters), learning to swim became more than just play. It was about keeping my children safe. I was adamant that my children know the basic safety skills to ensure they could go to any pool or body of water and know how to float, breathe, and swim for help. But when do you start the learn to swim process?

It depends… Does your family spend a lot of time near water or on a boat? Do you have a backyard pool? Is your child emotionally and physically ready for swim lessons?

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) says children can safely take private or group swim lessons as early as age 1. Parent-and-baby classes (starting at 6 months) offer the opportunity for parents to hear water safety messages that may help protect their children. However, they don’t recommend swimming or water-survival lessons for all toddlers because children develop at different rates. For example, children with motor or cognitive disabilities may not be ready for swim lessons until they are older.

Children most likely won’t really become competent swimmers until age 6 or 7, but it’s a slow progression, so starting at 3 or 4 can be helpful, she says.

Choosing a program for any age child (or adult) comes with its own set of questions, beginning with a look at the qualifications of the teachers. Find a program with teachers who understand child cognitive and physical development, along with swim skills. Allowing your child to learn at a pace that meets their emotional needs will help them quickly pick up the skill they need for swimming. For example, if your child has fears of the water, you want to make sure their instructor has patience and knows how to build confidence and empowerment. If your child is a daredevil, you want an instructor who knows how to educate a child of their age to understand safety concepts and body awareness.

So what is the bottom line of when to start your child in swim lessons? NOW! It’s never too late or too soon to learn about the joys of swimming!