Many parents wonder how old their child needs to be to start swimming lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidelines in Spring 2010 and now advocates swimming lessons for kids as young as age 1. They previously advised waiting until age 4 but lowered the age because new studies have shown that toddlers who have had at least some swimming instruction may be less likely to drown if they fall in a pool. The AAP still leaves the decision of when to start lessons in the hands of parents, who know best if their child is ready.
Remember that even after your child learns to swim well, he still needs full adult supervision in the pool and at the beach until he's a teen, and even then he should only swim when a friend is around. Make sure that you or another adult who can swim is watching and listening in case of emergency. Keep in mind that toddlers may be more likely to swallow water during swim time, which might make them sick. But the benefit of knowing swim basics, such as turning on their back to keep their face above water if they fall in, may outweigh the risk of illness from ingesting some water.
Be sure to find an instructor who is certified by the Red Cross or YMCA and knows CPR. Your local Red Cross chapter or their website, www.crossnet.org, can point you to swimming instructors in your area. Also, check out this list of pool safety tips.