Six water safety tips from Sunsational Swim School that help prevent child drowning:
• Understand the Importance of Learning to Swim – Rather than comparing swim lessons to enrolling a kid in Little League or some other recreational activity to invest in only if the child expresses interest, consider swim lessons an essential life skill. In reality, it is more akin to teaching your child to look both ways before crossing the street.
• It Doesn’t Have to Look Pretty – Swim lessons can and should teach basic water safety skills and the overall goal should be to help a child become comfortable and confident in and around water. It doesn’t have to look like the swimming you see at swim meets with smooth strokes and side breaths. At first, kids just need to be able to breathe, find a pool’s edge, grab the wall and use a ladder or stairs to climb out. The technique will come with time.
• Don’t Teach Treading Water First – While this is a common technique adults use, young children’s bodies are not suited for treading water. A child’s head is almost twice the size of an adult’s head in proportion to the rest of the body and their hands, feet, and muscles are much smaller and much less powerful.
• Avoid Most Flotation Devices – Many foam and air-filled flotation devices teach children to swim in a vertical position. This muscle memory can actually make children more prone to drowning as it defies the back floating position that often feels unnatural but is an essential basic skill to learn.
• Learn Swim Safety Skills and Expectations by Age
○ Ages 1-2: Back Float – Because young children do not have the physical capability to lift their heads to take breaths, being able to flip over or come up from under the water and rest on their back can be life saving. This position also allows them to scream and cry for help.
○ Ages 3-5: Kick Back to the Wall – This is the best age to start swim lessons as there is tremendous physical and developmental growth in this stage. Kids should practice jumping in, turning over and kicking back to the wall with little assistance from the instructor.
○ Ages 5-7: Be Independent in the Water – Most children have had some experience with swimming at this age and are more independent in the water. Kids should be learning basic strokes that allow for more free breathing with their face out of the water (i.e. backstroke).
○ Ages 8 and up: Recognize Signs of Exhaustion – This age group is most at risk of pushing themselves too hard, too far or too deep and becoming panicked. It is important to teach these swimmers to recognize signs of their own exhaustion and know when to rest.
○ Don’t Assume a Child Who Knows How to Swim Isn’t at Risk for Drowning – Even the most experienced swimmers can get too tired or cramp up. Always keep an eye on children in the water.