JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for children under four years old.
According to the AAP, in the past, the group advised against swimming lessons for children ages 1 to 3 because there was little evidence that lessons prevented drowning or resulted in better swim skills. There was a concern parents would become less vigilant about supervising a child who had learned some swimming skills.
New evidence announced by the AAP in May, shows that children 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.
Many programs offered in Jacksonville begin lessons before some children are able to walk.
"As soon as a child can crawl, they need to know how to be safe around water," said Rebecca Truong, with Swimming Safari Swim School on Beach Boulevard.
At Swimming Safari, the instructors teach toddlers basic life-saving skills.
"They begin with a forward motion dive toward the instructor, then roll onto their back to catch their breath. They then practice being on their back, getting water in their ears and making sure their mouths stay out of the water. We then teach them to reach for the wall," Truong said of the lesson.
Swimming Safari, which offers private and group lessons for swimmers of all ages, begins with children as young as six months old who are accompanied in the water by their parents.
"Really I'm scared of them drowning, so that's what started us with the lessons early," said Katie Tartt, whose three-year-old and 22-month-old boys enjoyed a lesson Monday.
Truong said parents should expect their children to need several lessons to adequately develop skills.
"If you want them to be able to roll on their back, it may take one to two months. If you want them to be proficient swimmers, it's going to take longer," Truong said.
The city of Jacksonville also offers lessons for babies (with parents) beginning at 6-months-old, as does the First Coast YMCA.
The YMCA also provides free swim testing and swim lessons to all of its summer day-campers.
Through Safe Kids of Northeast Florida, the city of Jacksonville handed out 200 swim school scholarships to students who otherwise could not afford lessons this summer.
Swimming Safari also provides lessons for some scholarship recipients through the Make A Splash grant program.
First Coast News