Swim instructors often get asked: “How quickly can my child learn how to swim?” My first response is usually another question: What do you mean by “Swim?”
Define What You Mean By “Swim”
Different parents and different kids will have varying concepts and expectations of what it means to be able to swim. Do you want your kid swimming laps across the pool? Do you want your kid to be able to join a swim team and do the butterfly stroke? Some parents say swim but what they mean is that they want their kid to learn the survival floats and how to get out of a pool without help. Other parents say “I just don’t want my kid to drown,” while others still want to know how long it will be before their kid will earn a blue racing ribbon.
So the real answer to “How long does it take kids to learn how to swim?” is: It depends.
Yes, it depends on what your idea of swim is, but it also depends largely on the child and the type of lessons
By and large, I feel most parents asking this question have young children, somewhere around the age of four, who have no prior swimming experience. These parents’ idea of swimming is mostly concerned with ensuring that their child learns the basic fundamentals to be able to float and move in the water independently. But even among this group of child swimmers, there is no hard or fast answer about how soon or how well they’ll be able to swim. Again, it depends. In theory, a child who has completed a Level III swim class or equivalent should be able to move independently in the water and float to safety. But that’s just in theory.
Lots of Swimmers and Lots of Factors
There are numerous factors that can affect how long it takes your child to meet your expectation of what it means to swim. And while there is no guaranteed timeline, I will guarantee that every child can learn to swim with proper teaching and instruction. Let’s take a look at the biggest factors that will affect how quickly your child may learn how to swim.
One of the biggest factors is how old your kid is. Older children with better motor skills and coordination will likely learn faster than toddlers. Some kids can pick up swimming relatively well in just a few weeks. Others take longer. Sometimes, a kid may seem stuck at a level and not progressing for a long period of time. This may be simple because your child’s development and coordination is still catching up with the pace of lessons and is nothing to be concerned about. As kids get older, these new skills are easier to grasp more quickly.
Type of Lesson
The other biggest factor besides age is the type of lesson your child is taking. Simply put, children in private swim lessons will progress significantly faster than children in group lessons. While group lessons are generally less expensive and fun to learn with a group of peers or friends, private lessons are the best, most efficient, and most successful way to get your child the swimming fundamentals. A child in private lessons with a dedicated professional instructor will likely get more in a few weeks of private lessons than he would get in months or even years of group lessons. For a visual breakdown of what these mean for your swimmer, see the comparison chart here.
This is another important factor that can affect how quickly your child learns to swim. For example, some kids need to learn by seeing an instructor demonstrate a skill multiple times. Other kids will only learn by practicing their own repetitions over and over again. With some kids, an instructor can simply say “Try this” and a child picks it up. Other kids need more practice or guidance before they feel comfortable with a new basic swimming skill.
Another key factor, the consistency with which your child is in the pool, learning new skills, and practicing, will have a direct impact on how quickly he learns to swim. Let’s say two kids are each enrolled for twelve private lessons. Child A takes three or four lessons a week for four weeks. Child B takes two lessons a week for six weeks. Not only will Child A be a better swimmer by the end of twelve lessons, but will likely have picked it up earlier in the lesson process than Child B. Swim skills build on each other. The more consistent the lessons, the quicker a child will learn how to swim.
Generally speaking (and I mean very generally), a three or four year old child with no prior swim experience will likely be able to competently swim by the end of three weeks or twelve sessions of consistent swim lessons. But lots of factors contribute to that generality. If your child isn’t progressing as quickly as you’d like, don’t give up! Every kid can learn to swim, it’s just a matter of sticking with it.
At Sunsational Swim School, our instructors travel to your home or community pool and guarantee that your child (3 or older) will swim within 12 private swim lessons or we offer up to 4 free lessons until they meet our learn to swim guarantee skill set! Learn more about our program and see your child improve their swimming in only weeks!
Briant Jacobs’ bio:
Swim Instructor in Tucson, AZ
Hi there, I'm Briant and I've taught/coached swimmers of all levels from ages 2 - 65 for over 12 years. I've been a lifeguard, water safety instructor, swim instructor, and competitive swim coach. I swam competitively for 14 years and played water polo for 4. I love teaching all levels, from fearful beginners to advanced competitors. I graduated from Georgetown where I studied law. I'm also fluent in Spanish, love Ben and Jerry's, and have yet to meet a swimmer who couldn't reach their goals.