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What age should babies start swimming? A guide for parents

Dive into baby swimming with the help of Water Babies, and discover the perfect age to start your baby’s swimming journey.

By Rebecca Roberts | Last updated May 31, 2023

Swimming with Water Babies

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Not only is swimming a fun and enjoyable activity for kids of all ages, but it also provides numerous benefits - particularly for babies. From water familiarisation to physical development and confidence, swimming can actually play a crucial role in your child’s overall growth.

As a parent, though, you might be wondering when the right time is to introduce your little one to the water like this OP. For some, you might even wonder whether it’s worth doing at such a young age. But as Mumsnet user ShippingNews shares, there’s huge benefits of starting early: “Mine did those classes and it was good for all of us - including [us] parents. Everyone gained confidence and enjoyed the water. By the time they were four to five years old, they were swimming like water babies.” 

So, to help you determine the best time to introduce your little one to swimming, we’ve put together this guide. With the help of baby swimming experts, Water Babies, find everything you should consider, when to start, and what you’ll need.

First up, a common question from MNers on our Talk boards

Can your baby go swimming before their vaccinations?

If you’d like to dive straight in with your child, you might be wondering whether it’s safer to wait until they have had their vaccinations.

As per the NHS, you can actually take your baby swimming at any age, both before and after they’ve been vaccinated. It doesn’t matter if they’ve not yet completed their course of vaccinations. Understandably, some babies might experience some side effects following their jabs, but these are generally quite mild and shouldn’t stop you from taking them swimming. With that said, babies who are feverish or irritable should probably stay out of the water until they feel up to it.

The benefits of baby swimming

1. It helps familiarise them with water

The earlier babies are introduced to water, the more comfortable they become in aquatic environments. Starting from birth, parents can engage in gentle water activities like baby baths and pouring water over their bodies to help prepare them for classes.

Activities like these can help your baby become familiar with water and establish a positive association with it, ergo making swimming together when you’re ready more enjoyable.

2. It teaches them water safety skills

While it’s important to have realistic expectations that are age appropriate as your baby grows, it’s never too early to start teaching them basic water safety skills.

According to Water Babies, drowning is sadly still one of the leading causes of death in young children. As parents, there’s no better peace of mind than knowing your little one can keep themselves safe both around and in the water. Introducing your baby to the water from birth will also help prevent a fear developing later, and make them feel confident should they ever be in an emergency situation.

“I loved Water Babies. Our DS did all the chapters and whilst it still took him time to learn to swim independently, it’s the confidence and safety aspects which Water Babies brought [that] made it so worthwhile.”


Even at a young age, babies can learn to hold their breath, kick their legs, and reach for the side of the pool - they can even be taught how to flip in the water, should they fall in by accident, to ensure they have access to air. It is these skills that lay the foundation for their swimming abilities later in life, and promotes their water safety awareness.

When to start swimming with babies

3. It’s a great bonding experience

Parent-baby swimming classes - like the ones Water Babies offer - are a wonderful way to introduce them to the water. Not only do these classes provide a safe and structured environment for both you and baby to bond, but it’s also a great opportunity to improve your own confidence in the water. And your confidence with handling your child in the water.

Classes often incorporate songs, games, and gentle exercises that all promote water confidence and help them to develop basic swimming skills.

4. There’s several physical benefits…

Being in the water helps your baby to move independently before they can crawl or walk, according to Water Babies. With some help, it’s a safe place for them to explore their balance, which also means they’ll become more coordinated out of the water, too.

“DS is 3, we’ve been doing Water Babies since he was four months old… [It’s] taught him some excellent skills, and is now jumping in and swimming half a width of the pool to me unaided.”


Swimming also helps them develop their hand-eye coordination, their fine motor skills, and strengthens their heart and lungs, as well as their arm, leg and neck muscles. Baby swimming is proven to help with your baby’s eating and sleeping patterns, too.

5. …and intellectual and social benefits

Cross-lateral movements during swimming (i.e. ones that cross the midline of the body, like reaching for a ball), also build nerve pathways, helping your baby’s brain to store and retrieve information. Research also indicates that baby swimming results in increased social, academic and personality development. Swimming also increases confidence, and as we’ve mentioned, helps to strengthen the bond between you both through holding them close.

What age should you start baby swimming classes?

You might be surprised to learn that there is no minimum recommended age for taking your baby swimming.

Since the NHS states it’s safe to swim prior to your baby’s vaccinations, and companies like Water Babies have classes that are suitable for newborns - the answer to this question is, as early as you like. In fact, with Water Babies, you can start their classes as soon as you want after your baby is born - they’ve even had parents join in a class with their baby who was one day old!

It’s worth remembering though, that there’s no need to rush if you aren’t ready. And while it’s theoretically possible to begin teaching newborns to swim from birth, it’s more common for parents to start baby swimming lessons from three months old or even later.

As soon as you’re confident and comfortable yourself to get in the pool with your little one, then don’t hesitate. The benefits of teaching your baby to swim are aplenty, and building their confidence in the water will prevent future fears (and tears).

How to choose the right swimming lessons

When to swim with babies

When getting into the pool with your newborn, it’s best to be guided by good, professional supervision. Both for safety reasons, and to help ensure a positive and enjoyable baby swimming experience. With Water Babies, you will be led by a trained teacher who has achieved Swim England’s Level 3 qualification, which is actually the highest that can be achieved.

The temperature of the pool is important at your chosen lesson location:

  • For babies aged 0 to 3 months, the water should be at least 32°C

  • For babies aged 3 to 12 months, the water temperature should be at least 30°C

  • The pool should not be warmer than 35°C

What baby swimming lessons include

When booking with Water Babies, from lesson one, your baby will get used to the sensation of the water, helping them to develop their natural instincts that transform into core aquatic skills.

By the end of your programme, the aim is to have your little one swimming freely using different strokes, and be able to keep themselves safe in and around the water.

Lessons are intimate with Water Babies, with a maximum of 10 babies, a carer per child and a teacher in the pool at any one time. They last 30 minutes, and take place weekly. Skills are taught through song, play and repetition, so there’s never a dull moment in the pool.

As your child grows, skills taught will change to mirror their developmental abilities:

  • From 0-1: kicking their legs, reaching for toys in the pool, stretching, breathing control and underwater swims, strengthening their core, floating and how to hold on to the side of the pool.

  • From 1-3: growing fundamental skills from their first year, babies will learn how to use their arms and legs to travel small distances on their own, through play they’ll learn counting, sorting, and identifying colours, how to blow bubbles, and also the basics of breaststroke.

  • From 3-5: how to push off from the wall on their front and back, swim to the floor and use floats, longer swim distances, sit and dive independently, roly-polys in the water, and how to help a friend in danger and recognise the safety flags at the beach.

For a full overview of what Water Babies have to offer, click here.

What to pack for baby swimming classes

You will be asked to use a double nappy system for baby swimming lessons, to avoid anything leaking out. Water Babies recommend the Happy Nappy DUO, which is a 2-in-1 washable swim nappy that contains an active silver inner layer which is scientifically proven to kill pathogens that cause tummy bugs like Cryptosporidium or E.coli. And because it is a 2-in-1 system, you won’t need to use a disposable nappy underneath. That’s great value!

It’s also a good idea to pack these essentials:

  • Swimming costume or trunks for you (and your child if appropriate)

  • Towels for you and your baby

  • Nappy changing gear, including a changing mat

  • Floats/armbands (unless provided)

  • Swimming cap or hat if required by pool

  • Money/coins for lockers

  • Shampoo, shower gel

  • Hair clips/bands

  • An after-swim snack or feed for your child

About Water Babies

Water Babies is a leading company dedicated to providing exceptional swimming experiences for babies and toddlers. With over 20 years of expertise, they have become synonymous with water confidence and safety for young children. Their specially designed classes, led by expert instructors, create a nurturing and enchanting environment where little ones can explore the wonders of the water. Water Babies focuses on building early swimming skills, coordination, and sensory development while promoting a lifelong love for swimming and water activities.