Starting as early as 6 months
Living in Panama comes with living close to water. Pool, ocean, waterfalls etc. So we decided early on that it would be great to introduce our daughter to water asap. We started looking at "swim classes" which were usually directed to getting the baby familiar with water and enjoying some play time. A horrible accident that happened to friends years ago still on our minds we were looking for something more. We wanted to be more at ease when being around the pool with her. We wanted her to gain the confidence when being in the water. We discovered there were actually lessons for babies as young as 6 months to teach them skills to potentially save themselves if they find themselves in the water alone. The program is called ISR - Infant Self Rescue.
For young babies between 6-12 months old they will learn how to roll onto their backs to float, rest and breathe. They learn to maintain this life saving position until help arrives.
When Mila was 9 months old we signed up for it and everything changed. Now, almost 2 years old and after 2 rounds of courses she is so confident and independent in the water, its astonishing. Each lessons is 10 intense minutes long, every day from Monday to Friday for 4-6 weeks. Its a time investment on the parents side too, but more worth than anything. It gives parents the peace of mind and children the confidence and first major accomplishment without the help of mom and dad.
I have to say though, that most babies, including our daughter, do not enjoy the lessons, at least the one for under 1 year olds. But as much they might cry in the water during lessons with the teacher, they usually never cry once when they practice with their parents. So, the lessons for under 1 year olds are straight up self rescue training and you won't use it much when spending time with your child in the pool (emergency only). But the second course is very much different as it gives the child the ability to be independent in the pool, move from A to B and totally doing its own "thing". When those little bodies manage to actually flip back into swimming position coming out of floating position, its so impressive to see and they really understand what they just learned and did.
Kids between the age of 1-6 years will learn the full ISR Self-Rescue® sequence of swimming (see first video at the top) until they need air, rotating onto the back to float, then rolling back over to continue swimming. ISR students are taught to repeat this sequence until they reach the safety of the steps, side of the pool, or the shoreline.
First video below is Mila's "check out" class (hence her wearing cloths to prep for real life situation) when she was 10 months old and the second video is her at 20 months - Sorry both are grainy iPhone videos only. But a special thanks to her amazing, talented, patient and motivating teacher for teaching her this amazing skill which has even further developed.