What Age Should Children Learn To Swim?

Learning to swim is one of the most important life skills that every child should learn. Learning to swim can also be a great way for children to spend quality time with their friends and families.

However, as with many other activities, learning to swim can be dangerous if not done correctly.

That’s why it’s important to know when exactly your child is ready to start swimming lessons.

So, what age should children learn to swim?

Learning how to swim doesn’t have an age limit, however, it does require some level of maturity in order for it to be successful. In this article, I’ll discuss the various ages at which you should consider start teaching your child how to swim, and how you should go about it.

Below is a handy table of contents. Clicking on any of the article headers below will jump you straight to the place on this page you are interested in.

What Age Should Children Learn To Swim?‍

The best age to start swimming lessons is around 2 years old.

At this age, your child will begin to understand the concept of water and how it moves.

At this age, they can also communicate, which is an essential part of lessons, taking instruction and improving.

This means that they will also be more likely to learn how to swim. Swimming is a complex skill that requires a great amount of coordination and cognitive development.

Teaching swimming at an early age can therefore help your child develop additional skills and gain confidence in their ability to swim, where they’ll also learn about the dangers of water.

However, you can take your child earlier than this, but this will simply be an exercise in getting your child used to environments with water and moving their arms and legs.

Rebecca Adlington first took her baby swimming when she was just 3 and a half weeks old!

Where Should Children Be Taught To Swim?

How you teach your child is up to you.

There’s really only 2 choices:

You can either sign them up to swimming classes, or teach them yourself at public swimming baths.

what age should children learn to swim swimming lessons uk

There’s pros and cons to each, but to me personally, nothing beats a structured learning environment taught by professionals.

Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of lessons vs teaching your child to swim yourself.

Advantages of swimming lessons

Swimming lessons for children will be advertised locally, and are usually done in private pools by qualified persons.

Check Facebook for people who offer these lessons.

  • Weekly sessions at specific time, giving structure and repetition
  • Low cost, a lesson should be between £4-£8
  • Lessons can be block booked at a discount
  • Lessons are in a structured environment, progressively going from easy to hard
  • Equipment, such as arm bands, noodles, vests and floatation devices available
  • A qualified swimming instructor will teach your child

Disadvantages of swimming lessons

  • Can be tying – timings and dates are set in stone
  • Group lessons can mean your child only gets a few minutes of swimming practice per lesson
  • Most swimming lessons require an upfront payment for a block of lessons

Advantages of being self taught

Self taught means you, the parent or care giver, will take your child to public swimming baths and teach them yourself.

  • No time limits or set dates
  • Taught by a person known and trusted to them
  • They get more ‘tuition’ time as it is just your child learning with you

Disadvantages of being self taught

  • Too easy to be busy with other things, and put off going swimming
  • Rarely will swimming baths provide arm bands, vests and floatation devices
  • Swimming baths can be packed and noisy at times

I am suggesting that the best way to teach your child to swim is actually a combination of both lessons and being self taught by yourself.

Lessons will give your child the basics and fundamentals, but taking your child to public swimming baths and building on what they have already learnt can be extremely advantageous, and will often lead to them requiring fewer lessons in the long term.

what age children swimming lesson uk

Learning To Swim: 2 To 3 Years Old

Your child will be able to understand the concept of gravity at this age, as well as a basic understanding of the dangers of water and what would happen if they were submerged in water.

That means that they will begin to understand why they should not float in the air or jump off things (unless it’s your couch, obviously!).

Additionally, they will start to associate the water with things like bath time, having fun and being clean.

Their speech and understanding of speech, as well as understanding and executing instructions will also be at a level where they understand what is being asked of them in the pool.

This means that they will be more willing to learn how to swim and open to taking instruction.

Your child will also be able to hold their head upright for longer periods of time.

For me, this is the ideal age, because not only does learning to swim take co-ordination, it takes understanding of concepts and taking instruction to enable them to progress.

Development At 4 To 6 Years Old

At this age, your child will also learn to swim through their primary school.

Children at this age should have developed enough cognitive skills to grasp the concept of water and gravity, as well as the dangers associated with water and drowning.

They should also be physically able to use the muscles in their arms and legs, and their physical coordination of using legs and arms in tandem will be much improved.

This means that they will be competent swimmers who can swim freestyle, learn basic skills, and enjoy water sports such as swimming and basicbasic games.

Your child may also be interested in learning how to swim, meaning they are more likely to be motivated to learn.

Development At 7 To 8 Years Old

By now your child should be able to swim freestyle and can also swim back stroke.

They should also be able to perform turns, jumps, and splashes. Your child should have good upper body strength and be able to swim one length without stopping.

They should also understand the concept of buoyancy and how to stay afloat.

Development at 9 To 10 Years Old

Your child should be proficient in freestyle and back stroke swimming.

They should also be able to swim using a combination of the two strokes.

You will also see them start to swim breast stroke and learn how to tread water.

Development at 11 to 12 Years Old

Your child should be confidently be able to swim freestyle, back stroke, and breast stroke.

They should also be able to swim using a combination of the strokes. Additionally, they should understand the concept of buoyancy, and breathing techniques needed for underwater swimming.

Your child should also be able to move onto learn how to swim lessons.

This is important as swimming lessons will teach them advanced swimming techniques and help them become more confident in their abilities.

Swimming At 13 And Up

By the time your child reaches puberty, they are confident swimmers.

They should be able to swim freestyle, back stroke, breast stroke, tread water and swim under the surface of the water when required to do so. They should also know what to do if they accidently fall into water, and how to keep calm and get themselves either to safety, or wait in the water until help arrives.

This is important as it greatly reduces the risk of drowning.

However, all this aside, being confident swimmers is also an excellent way for children to stay active and have fun with their friends, whether that is in local swimming pools, open air swimming areas or at water parks.

Is Swimming On The School Curriculum?

Yes it is.

In fact, it’s been on there since 1994.

By the time your child leaves primary school, they should be confident and proficient in water safety and have an ability to swim using a range of strokes, and perform life saving self rescue techniques.

All Primary school age children will have organised, structured swimming lessons that take place either in the school swimming pool, or at a local authority public swimming pool, where the pool will be shut for members of the public, and available only to that school, with suitably qualified and experienced instructors teaching your child.

Typically, a primary school will begin swimming lesson between the ages of 5-7 years old.


Swimming is a hugely important skill for children in the UK.

Nearly 250,000 people drown every year around the world. Yes, you read that right. A quarter of a million.

And it’s among the top 10 leading causes of death in children.

We live on an island surrounded by water, so getting your child swimming and being confident in and around water is not only a good skill to have under their belt, but it’s a potentially lifesaving skill for throughout their life.

But let’s move on from the danger aspect – swimming and water is extremely fun for children, and it’s a great form of exercise and a great way for them to build on core strength and muscle strength, especially their legs and arms.

Having a child who is competent in the water also helps on holiday too, where entertainment can center on outside swimming pools and water parks.

Whether you choose to take your child to lessons, teach them by yourself, or a combination of both, you can rest assured that you are not only helping them develop a safety conscious outlook when around water, but you are helping them develop skills that they will have for life.

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My name is Richard.

I'm 40 years old. And I have nearly 20 years experience in various safety and security industries.

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