Safety Experts Recommend Kids Start Swimming Lessons At 1 Year Old

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Juan Aunion / EyeEm/Getty

Drowning remains the leading cause of death in children

New recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are highlighting the importance of water safety and drowning prevention. The AAP has released updated advice and suggestions for parents of small children.

Starting swimming lessons around one year of age can reduce a child’s risk of drowning, the AAP says. Safety experts say the lessons need to focus on teaching children basic water skills and water safety. The recommendations also say that all children should learn how to swim and children and teens need to wear life jackets when they’re near bodies of water.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children — nearly 1,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are caused by drowning. It only takes seconds for it to happen to a child, and it often occurs in just seconds, before adults even realize it’s happening.

The new recommendations have been updated in hopes to educate parents and help prevent swimming-related accidents, injuries, and deaths.

“When a child is in and around water, we need constant attentive supervision, touch supervision, which means they are within an arm’s length of that child when they are in the water,” Dr. Sarah Denny, an emergency physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and an author of the AAP report, tells CBS News.

According to the report, in 2017, an estimated 8700 children younger than 20 years visited a hospital emergency department for a drowning event, and 25% of those children were hospitalized or transferred for further care. Little ones between the ages of 0-4 are at the highest risk for drowning-related accidents because of the lack of barriers to prevent unanticipated, unsupervised access to water. This isn’t just limited to swimming pools — it also includes hot tubs, bathtubs, natural bodies of water, or standing water in homes (buckets and toilets).

“When kids are not expected to be in the water that’s when we need those barriers. That’s the four-sided isolation fencing that separates the pool from the rest of the house and the yard,” Denny says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also emphasizes that swimming is a family activity so parents should also know how to swim. Other tips from the AAP to prevent drowning include:

  • Parents should never leave children alone or in the care of another child while in or near bathtubs, pools, spas, or other open water.
  • Adults should empty water from buckets and other containers immediately after use — even a small amount of water can be hazardous for a young child.
  • Never leave young children alone in the bathroom. Toilet locks can prevent drowning of toddlers.
  • Even with older children and better swimmers, the supervising adult should focus on the child and not get distracted with other activities.

With summer quickly approaching, it’s important to take these recommendations seriously to help prevent any water-related accidents or injuries.