I don’t actually know why I stay on their mailing list. Their help in the last 32 months has been almost nil. Twitter has been far more helpful (or rather, its users have been) to me.
Nevertheless, I am still on their mailing list so I get a weekly email update about what my kid should be doing and what to look for, etc. This week included this passage at the bottom:
Your 2-year-old is probably getting bolder (and having more and more fun) around water. You know you must keep an eye on him at all times in pools or other bodies of water, but what about swimming lessons to further boost your peace of mind? Programs that teach little ones to swim abound and can be a terrific way of accustoming a child to water and getting some exercise. Be aware, though, that formal lessons aren’t usually recommended until after age 3 because a child younger than that can rarely be taught to swim well enough to be considered water safe.
I don’t really know where Babycenter gets any of its information because it’s not like they link to much outside their own properties, but here’s what the CDC has to say about it:
Many adults and children report that they can’t swim. Research has shown that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children aged 1 to 4 years.
The CDC understands what Babycenter clearly does not–that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children under 5. Proper swim instruction is one piece of the puzzle to preventing these tragedies. (Responsible, sober, nearby supervision, physical barriers, and life jackets are some of the others.) Leading parents to believe there’s no good reason to enroll their toddler in swim lessons because they’re too little to swim by themselves at that age is ignorant and irresponsible.
Young children can absolutely learn to hold their breath, roll onto their back, and reach for the side of a pool. They later learn how to travel across the side of the pool (“like Spiderman”), climb a ladder, and take multiple breaths during a lap, but even the basic skills could be potentially life-saving. I can think of reasons for delaying swim instruction, but the one provided above is not one. It’s not even true.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death in teenagers and, according to the National Safety Council, the first 12 months of licensure are the most dangerous. But you don’t see anyone advocating that we hold off on driver’s education until kids are old enough to drive alone on the interstate. Conversely, there are tons of websites dedicated to teen driver safety resources, because it’s quite obviously a matter of life and death.
In 1981, a little boy my brother’s age drowned in his family’s backyard pool in Richardson, TX. Our families attended the same church. I was too young to remember but I do remember my mother mentioning him from time to time as we were growing up. Comforting that grieving mother and father clearly affected her. I have no doubt it also played a role in my younger sister learning to swim even before she could walk. We all took private swim lessons that summer, in fact.
My son has been enrolled in swim class year-round since he was seven months old. There was a near-miss here in town a few weeks ago and we talked about it in class–these things can happen in the blink of an eye. We may not be able to protect our kids from each and every lurking danger, but we can and should arm them with age-appropriate skills to help mitigate disaster. Too bad Babycenter doesn’t use its platform and reach to point that out.