Can a 2-Year-Old Learn To Swim? How To Teach Your Toddler

Over the past two years, your toddler has experienced significant growth and achieved all the necessary milestones.

They are as independent as ever and are starting to get the hang of necessary motor skills like running, throwing, kicking, and climbing.

But what about swimming? As summer approaches, you may be wondering if your little one is ready to take on the water. 

Can a 2-year-old swim? Two-year-old children can learn the mechanics of swimming, but they are not always capable of understanding the risks associated with water. Toddler swim classes can acquaint children with basic water safety and survival techniques but may impose a false sense of security in parents. 

Understanding what to expect when teaching your toddler to swim can be life-saving. Keep reading to learn more about toddler swimming expectations and current safety guidelines.

2-Year-Old Swimming: What’s Possible, What To Expect

Learning to swim is a huge accomplishment that many parents yearn to help their children achieve. When to do this and how to approach it is largely reliant on each individual child.

Below we’ve addressed some of the most commonly asked questions about toddlers and swimming. 

Is It Possible To Teach a 2-Year-Old To Swim?

Treading and propelling through water are motor skills that 2-year-olds may be capable of learning. The ability to execute these actions is dependent on whether they’ve mastered precursor milestones like running and throwing.

However, there is more to swimming than physical mechanics. Breath control, danger sensory, and spatial intelligence also play a critical role in effectively learning to swim. 

So, it’s possible to teach a 2-year-old the physical motions needed to navigate the water (see clip below), but their ability to combine and apply the necessary skills may not be developed enough to consider them safe swimmers. 

Signs That Your 2-Year-Old Is Ready for Swim Lessons

Many factors contribute to a parent’s decision to enroll their child in swim lessons. Every child has different developmental limitations and areas where they excel.

In addition, some children show interest in activities like swimming earlier than others. Other elements, like anticipated exposure to water, should also play a role in that decision.

Expressing an interest in swimming or water environments is a good indication that your child should take swim lessons for safety reasons. However, talk to a pediatrician about your child’s developmental readiness.

Advantages to Early Swim Lessons

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, early swim lessons offer valuable advantages for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

Parent-child swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning, introduce children to basic water safety, and start building the necessary motor skills for water navigation.

However, the AAP does not recommend independent swim classes for children in this age group. 

How Are 2-Year-Olds Taught To Swim?

Toddlers who participate in swim classes are taught necessary water survival skills. Since an adult should always be present when swimming recreationally, more emphasis is placed on realistic emergency situations.

Children are taught skills like finding the surface, exiting the water, treading water for extended periods of time, breathing techniques, and swimming short distances. This differs from traditional swimming lessons that teach swim strokes and pacing.

Swim Lessons for Toddlers – What To Look For 

When searching for swim lessons, aim for those that focus on survival skills rather than just swim techniques. The swim program should adhere to the following protocols:

Encourage Parent Involvement

Toddlers should never intentionally be in the water unaccompanied by an adult. By encouraging involvement both in and outside of the water, parents are able to continue skill development between lessons.

Additionally, parents are taught the correct way to assist their child in case of an emergency. 

Water Temperature and Sanitation

Learning to swim requires extended bouts of wading or being submerged in water. It’s not commonly known, but hypothermia poses a large risk to young children in swimming lessons.

For those 3 and under, the pool water should be heated. The ideal water temperature is between 87 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit by AAP standards.

Hypothermia isn’t the only threat to your child’s health in the pool. Proper sanitation, encouraging correct swimwear, and engaging in routine cleanings are critical in bacterial prevention.

Since young children learning to swim tend to swallow water and keep their eyes open, having clean water is important. 

High Expectations for Instructors

Swim instructors within the program should be trained and certified through an accredited program. Look for programs with a long-standing reputation and reviewed swim instructors. 

Focus On Safety

The program should focus on teaching children proper water safety and navigation. Children should be taught, first and foremost, to never enter the water alone or without an adult present.

Secondly, they should be learning basic self-rescue skills, such as getting to the surface from underwater, treading water for at least 30 seconds at a time, and propelling through the water for at least 25 yards.

A mother holding her toddler in the water during a swim class.

How To Teach 2-Year-Old To Swim

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for teaching your 2-year-old how to swim:

1. Do Your Research on Swim Classes 

Unless you are a certified instructor from an accredited institution, it’s best to leave swim training to the professionals. If you’re worried about affordability, many communities offer free or sponsored options.

Start by reaching out to your city hall, local non-profit chapters, local colleges, and swim institutions.

The first step is to find a reputable and accredited swim instructor or institution that offers parent-toddler classes. This program should adhere to the highest safety and sanitation standards. 

2. Sit In on a Class

The second step is to sit in on potential classes before enrolling your child. Not all institutions are equal. Ensure that the atmosphere is toddler friendly, comfortable, and conducive to swim training.

Have a conversation with the instructor regarding your expectations, questions, and concerns to make sure you’re on the same page.

3. Enroll Your Child and Be Prepared

The third step is to select a class and prepare your child for their first lesson. Make sure they have a well-fitting, but not restrictive, swimsuit to attend class with. If necessary and allowed, obtain eye, ear, hair, or nose protection.

4. Be Vocal and Involved

The fourth step is to get in the water with your child during lessons and pay close attention to the instructor’s direction.

If you have a question, bring it to the instructor’s attention. Don’t be afraid to ask for a demonstration and seek additional clarification one-on-one.

5. Practice at Home When You Can

Step five is to ask your instructor what techniques and methods are safe to practice. Clarify that you understand each method that’s recommended, then take that knowledge home with you.

Help your child practice water safety skills between sessions. Verify that they understand the basic water safety habits you’ve gone over in class, such as never entering the water without an adult.

6. Be Consistent in Training

The final step is to continue swim lessons and at-home practice until your child has graduated or mastered the necessary skills. If your child is struggling in any particular area, speak with your instructor about private lessons or ways you can encourage growth in that skill.

Don’t give up if your child doesn’t understand right away, and consult a pediatrician if you’re ever unsure about the effect of swimming lessons on your child’s development. 

Related Questions:

Do Floaties Delay Learning To Swim?

The consistent use of floaties can give children a false sense of security in the water. When using floatation devices of any kind, children are kept in a vertical position that is not conducive to swimming.

If a child does not know how to swim, they should be accompanied in the water, even with the use of floatation devices. 

What Age Can a Child Swim Independently?

Children should never be allowed to swim on their own. In fact, the first rule in swim safety for people of all ages is to avoid independent swimming.

Make sure that your child is always accompanied by a friend, a sibling, a lifeguard, or an adult capable of responding in an emergency situation. 

Final Thoughts

Children between the ages of 1 and 4 are encouraged to participate in swim classes focused on swim safety and survival skills. Doing so can allow them a comfortable, safe space to become acquainted with the water.

Despite any swim training, parents should always be present in the water with young children at all times. Never leave them alone, even for a few seconds.