How Quickly Can a Child Learn To Swim?
Infants and toddlers can make great progress toward learning skills that will make them more "skill ready" to master more advanced swim skills, and even learn safety skills that save their life. However, because their motor skills are not as well developed, learning advanced swimming skills takes considerably longer than it does for older children to master similar skills. My son, Jeb, for example, who is 6 years old now, could perform basic swim safety skills by his second birthday. That would not have been possible without consistent practice as an infant and young toddler.
Infants (between six and twelve months) can learn to hold their breath long enough to buy a parent a few valuable extra seconds in the case of an accidental water entry. By nineteen months, a toddler can learn to return to the side of the pool, and by twenty-four months, the skill can be executed with ease if you've kept your young swimmer exposed to swim lessons.
It takes most 3 - 5 year old students twenty (20) to thirty (30) lessons to swim well enough to get across a small pool (15 feet wide) and perform basic safety swimming skills. For a 6 - 9 year old, it usually takes anywhere from 8 (eight) to 20 (twenty) lessons. Again, these are both just estimates with a number of variables that must be considered (as mentioned above).Learning to swim formal strokes, such as freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, sidestroke, and elementary backstroke can take longer, depending on the child's age.
While I feel it's extremely important that children ages (6) and under learn formal strokes, the formal strokes are complex skills that require more coordination than does a paddling stroke or underwater swim with a pop-up or rollover breath. While those basic swimming skills may be the most important ones for a young child for basic water safety, mastering the freestyle, backstroke(s), breaststroke, and sidestroke are nearly as important if a child found himself in a more challenging situation, such as in the middle of a lake from a capsized watercraft or in a river with moving water.
This brings us to one more important consideration. What is the best age to start learning to swim? Any age. It's never too late or too early to learn how to swim!