How long will it take for your child to learn to swim?

We are very lucky in this country, in that the importance of learning to swim as one of the main cornerstones to water safety is something we are generally fairly well educated about – we know that our children must learn to swim, as soon as possible. So, as we head into Spring we have lots of parents signing their children up for weekly swimming lessons, and we are often asked at this time “How long will it take for my child to learn to swim”? That’s a big question, and unfortunately the answer isn’t definitive, varying from child to child.
Learning to swim is a long term, ongoing process, and consistency is the key to the development and maintenance of swimming skills. Attending lessons should become an established part of your child’s weekly routine throughout their infant, preschool and early school years, all year round. Every child is different, and as with any skill, it is normal for the child to go through periods of plateau, regression and developmental leaps throughout the process of learning to swim, but over time constant progress is being made.
We usually say (as general guide) that your child has become a capable swimmer when they are able to swim 400 metres with good technique, without stopping, and without becoming exhausted. My personal experience with my own children has been to get each of them to a level of competency in all 4 strokes by the time of their first school swimming carnival, then to sit back and watch the satisfaction they derive from doing well, boosting their enthusiasm for ongoing swim training. I feel that getting them to this level of competency ticks the box of learning to swim and improves the safety of my children around water, in conjunction with the other 4 pillars of water safety of course – fencing the pool, always shutting the gate, constant supervision and learning CPR. Achieving this level of competency also encourages a confidence in and love of swimming for fitness and health later in life.
Of course, this level of swimming skill takes different amounts of time for individual children to reach, and depends largely upon how much time your child spends in the water per week. What if your child didn’t start as early as his or her peers, how can they catch up? Multiple lessons per week are a great option to achieve rapid improvement of swimming skills and technique, increased fitness, and will also make swimming lessons even more affordable (most centres offer discounts on multiple lessons per week).
It is important to remember that swimming is not just another option on the list of sports and activities available to children – it is an invaluable lifelong skill that may just save their lives.
Stay safer!