How Long Will It Take My Child to Learn to Swim?

How long does it take to learn to swim? Many parents want an answer to how long it will take their child to learn to swim, and you may be one of them. Sometimes parents ask for a specific number of classes, or a range of time for lessons. Given your investment of time and money, it is easy to understand why answering this question is important. 

While learning how to swim for average adults usually takes only a few months, children who are learning how to swim usually require around 1 year of consistent swimming lessons (or around 52 lessons) to learn how to swim. Let’s explore some of the factors that impact a child’s swimming skill development. You may find these factors apply not only to aquatics but also to any activity that you and your kids pursue for their development.  

1. Avoid Misconceptions

Common misconceptions new parents frequently have while learning how long it will take their child to swim may sound like, “I understand my child can learn to swim in an accelerated program in a couple of weeks. They will have basic skills and will be safer in the water. It’s like riding a bike—you never forget.”  

While there are some threads of truth in these misconceptions,  it is not true that learning to swim is “one-and-done” like a vaccine. Your child can learn a lot in a multi-week program but  It takes practice and consistency to maintain them as your child’s body, mind, and even social skills evolve. Some very simple, universal skills may stick with them, including how to safely enter the pool and how to keep water out of their windpipe and lungs. These are basic skills that any swimmer needs and can be learned quickly. 

However, swim instructors get particularly concerned when we hear the term “drown-proof.” Unfortunately, there is no such thing. In fact, drowning prevention experts like Lifeguards Without Borders and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, consistently repeat that any measure or device that claims to be drown proof can lead to dangerous failures in supervision.  Don’t believe in drown-proofing. Constant supervision is the safest way to ensure a child is safe in the water while they learn how to swim. 

Next, let’s look at the physiological factors that shape learning how to swim.

2. Understand Physiological Factors 

Consistent repetition is the mother of mastery in almost all activities. Why does practice yield results? One reason is that repetition strengthens the neurological pathways in our brain. These highways make a motion or reaction natural, fast, strong, and intuitive, and allow our muscles to repeat movements faster, easier, stronger, and more efficient. 

Answering, how long does it take to learn how to swim, is really a matter of repetition creating “muscle memory” and priming the muscles for familiar motions. The more you practice the motions of learning how to swim, the less time it will take when answering, how long does it take to learn to swim?

3. Maintain Consistency

While competitive swimming is not every parent’s goal for their child, consistency produces sustained results and helps children remember the skills they have learned in swim class. When children are on breaks from swim lessons, it’s very common, and even expected, that they will lose some of the swimming skills they have learned while learning to swim on a regular basis. 

Continuing swim lessons year-round will help with retention and progress. Returning students will need to relearn previously acquired skills and re-acclimatise to the water. 

4. Make Swimming a Family Affair

Another element of learning to swim is to make it a family affair. It is very common for families to want their children to develop swimming skills, but one or both parents cannot swim. Sometimes we encounter parents or grandparents with a profound fear of the water. This can come from bad experiences or social or cultural factors that don’t prioritize learning how to swim and water safety.  

Swimming with your child and practicing with them can really help their swimming agility and strength while they learn how to swim. Spending time in the water can help you enjoy their learning process too. This might help you understand their learning process better, rather than worrying about their learning speed and wondering how long does it take to learn how to swim?  

No one is more important than you in your child’s education—and this includes swimming. Your support is just as important, if not more important, than the techniques they learn in class. 

How Long Does It Take to Learn How to Swim? 

Just as every child can take a few months to learn to walk or language skills, it may take others many months or even years. This isn’t good or bad, it’s just different. It’s the same for swimming. Learning how to swim takes time, consistency, and plenty of practice.  

The great thing about swimming is that there are few activities as fun, enriching, and rewarding. We like to think of it as an essential skill for a kick-ass life. Send us your questions and comments. We love to hear when people agree, disagree, or find other information. It helps us grow together as we learn and answer. “How long does it take to learn how to swim?”