Summer is here, and parents of young children are asking the question, “What is the right age for swimming lessons?”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children under the age of four are not developmentally ready to learn to swim; the age to master the crawl is actually between 5 and 6. That leads to the next question, “What about water safety and aquatic classes?”

While in the past, the Academy was stringent in not recommending swim and aquatic safety programs before four, they have become more relaxed in their guidelines for children between the ages of one and four. It is important to note, though, that these programs are not proven to decrease the risk of drowning and are not a substitute for adult supervision in the water at all times. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children in almost all age groups, so vigilance is critical.

Here are some basic things to remember to ensure safety for your children in or near water:

Always follow touch supervision, which means you are within touching reach of your child at all times in or near water.

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Unless you are strictly enforcing touch supervision, do not rely on floaties or tubes to prevent drowning, but use Coast Guard approved safety devices. Children left alone with floaties or non-approved floatation devices can actually get trapped upside down in the water.

If you do enroll your child in aquatic classes, remember that while they may acclimate your child and make them more relaxed in the water, they can also reduce your child’s fear of water which can increase the likelihood that they go in or near water unsupervised. These programs can also make parents over-confident, which may reduce their own vigilance around pools and bodies of water. That said, check out your communities offerings, verify the credentials of their staff, and discover for yourself the benefits of what activities they have to offer.

If you are a pool owner, be sure that the pool is surrounded on four sides (the house should not be one of the sides) by a locked, at least four-foot high fence. For above ground pools, be sure to remove the ladder when the pool is not in use. And use a pool cover, as they add a second layer of protection. Be aware of all access that children have to nearby lakes, ponds, and streams and supervise accordingly.

Having grown up learning to swim in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, then spending my summer days at the local city swimming pool, I am a water lover. As such, I was quick to share my passion for swimming and water play with my children and grandchildren as I am sure you are too. Have fun. It’s possible for parents and children to enjoy the water, and have a healthy dose of caution at the same time.