There are so many different reasons to teach your child how to swim that they cannot all possibly be cataloged in a single blog post. From safety to self-esteem, all the way to simple leisure and fun, swimming is a skill that will benefit your child time and time again?especially if you live near a body of water.

Swimming as a Survival Skill

First, let's start by looking at the safety reasons for learning to swim. While swimming is often fun, it can also be looked at as a simple safety or survival skill. Most animals are born with an innate ability to swim, which aids in everything from hunting to escaping predators. Humans don't have the same luxury, and while we don't have to hunt or look out for higher-on-the-food-chain animals like most creatures do, learning to swim can still help us survive in a number of ways.

It is a simple inevitability that, at some point in life, your child will find himself or herself near water. Trips to the beach or the pool with friends or school groups; cruise vacations with family; outings on a sailboat or a speedboat and all the fun that entails, from fishing to tubing or water skiing. While none of these scenarios necessarily require swimming, it's unrealistic to expect your child to go through his or her whole life without ever going into the water.

When the time does come to dive in, it is important that your son or daughter know how to swim. Otherwise, a fun, leisurely outing can quickly turn into a major scare or a horrible tragedy. Teaching your child to become a strong lifelong swimmer could even help to prevent such a tragedy from striking someone else. Just because your son or daughter knows how to swim well doesn't necessarily mean others their age will be able to do so. There could well come a time in your child's life where he or she has an occasion to save someone else from drowning,even if that occasion is probably years and years off in the future.

Swimming as a Fun Activity

Just because swimming is an innate survival skill for most animals, that doesn't mean it can't be fun as well. Dogs love jumping into a river or stream to chase down a ball or stick, and if you've ever seen the otters at the zoo, you know how much they love water play. The same holds true for humans. Unsurprisingly, swimming is most often thought of as a leisure activity. Nothing says summer fun like going down to the beach for the day and splashing around in the water with friends and family.

There are so many fun things to do in the water, from the most "extreme" water sports (surfing, water skiing, and jet skiing) to the least (paddle boarding, canoeing, or even tossing around a ball with friends). During the warm months, the water is a place to have fun, stay active, and be social. Teaching your child how to swim early in life will set them up to take advantage of these great pleasures later on down the road.

Not knowing how to swim, meanwhile, will greatly limit what your son or daughter can do with friends when water is involved in the conversation. Perhaps worse, lacking that skill can hurt your child's self-esteem. Others kids might make fun of your son or daughter for not being able to swim. Even if they don't, though, it'll be tough for your child not to feel left out when everyone else is having fun in the water and he or she can't.

Swimming as Exercise

Even leaving aside the possibility of your son or daughter someday participating in competitive swimming, swimming is great exercise. An hour of fairly leisurely swimming can burn between 400 and 500 calories, depending on your weight, while more rigorous swimming obviously increases that figure. Swimming is great exercise because it requires you to use a lot of different muscles throughout your body and because even treading water keeps your heart pumping and your body working. The demanding nature of swimming means that, as an activity, it has numerous major benefits for virtually every facet of your body. Increased muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance are both positives associated with swimming while your metabolism can also enjoy positive effects.

So while your child might not necessarily go on to become the next Olympic gold medalist in the butterfly or the breast stroke, knowing how to swim and swim well could still benefit his or her health and fitness throughout life. In particular, swimming is perhaps the number one form of exercise for older adults. Because of the water, swimming is much lower-impact than other similarly strenuous cardiovascular activities such as running. As such, swimming allows adults to continue exercising even after their joints have started to deteriorate. You might not necessarily be thinking of your child as a senior citizen when you are first starting to teach them the basics of swimming (for good reason), but the benefits that swimming has for older adults just show again why it is such an important life skill to have.

The Basics of Teaching Kids to Swim

Now that we've established why teaching your kids how to swim is important, we can focus on how you should go about teaching this very valuable skill. Knowing when to start with swimming lessons, how to approach the teaching process to make swimming as fun and positive for your kids as possible, and which skills to focus on will help you to turn your child into a well-rounded swimmer. We cover each of these tips in the sections below.

When to Start with Swim Lessons

Even the best swimming lesson strategies will fall flat if your son or daughter isn't ready yet. In other words, you might have to hold off for a few summers before taking your child into the water. Most experts recommend that kids be at least four years old before enrolling in swimming lessons. However, you can start familiarizing your child with the water and teaching them the basics of swimming at a much younger age, so that formal lessons are more fun and more effective when you do choose to start. You can take babies or toddlers into the water as long as you 1) keep their heads above the surface at all times, 2) hold onto them while they splash around and get comfortable. Infants can drown in very shallow depths, so this kind of 100% supervision is necessary even in seemingly harmless wading pools.

Ideas for the Teaching Process

Once your kids are coordinated enough to start swimming on their own (four or five years of age is the standard), enroll them in swimming lessons with a trained lifeguard. These experts know the best techniques to take while teaching kids to swim. Plus, swim lessons are often class-based, so your kids can learn with other children around the same age. The group atmosphere is good for kids because it allows them to see what others are doing and imitate it, and it keeps them motivated to learn. Still, even if another person is doing most of the teaching, the majority of swim lessons will stress parental involvement. You will probably be in the water with your kids during the earliest lessons, just to be within reach if they need help. The swim lessons should emphasize floating, swimming positions, and coordinated arm and leg movements, and you can help your child along just by being present as a safety assurance.

Important Safety Rules

As mentioned above, your child's swim lessons should take care of teaching most of the swimming basics. Parents, on the other hand, should take the lead on safety rules. Teach your kids not to run near the pool; stress that swimming without adult supervision is against the rules; make the deep end of the pool off limits for awhile; and don't allow swimming after dark or after meals. These are just a few of the rules that are important to establish early, to help your child become a conscientious swimmer for life. Though not every child will love the water right away, learning to swim is a rite of passage that every kid should go through. From safety to strength to personal safety, the rewards of this skill are limitless. Best of all, as the parent, you get to watch your child master a skill he or she will use for life?a massive reward in its own right.