Teaching kids to swim and love the water reduces drowning risk

Teaching kids to swim and love the water reduces drowning risk

Teaching kids to swim and love the water reduces drowning risk

The right age to start swimming lessons and how to make the most of the experience

from Chicago Parent

Summer and swimming go hand in hand. Whether it’s at the beach, taking a dip in the backyard pool or boating on a lake, water tends to be our warm-weather entertainment. But as fun as it is, it can be deadly.

Drowning is the number one cause of death for kids under 4 and the second cause of death for those under 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most heartbreaking is that drowning can be prevented.

The simplest way to reduce the risk is to invest in swimming lessons.

Starting kids young

If your child takes swimming lessons, there is an 88 percent reduction of a drowning risk. And Sara Batchelor, director of operations at Dolphin Swim Club, says it is never too late-and never too early-to get them swimming.

“Start an infant at just a few months old and they will never be fearful of the water, and swimming will be just as natural as water,” Batchelor says.

She recommends starting in a program that caters to young children.

Alexandria Shanklin, a psychotherapist, recommends starting with a class where a parent can be involved.

“They’ll feel secure with you holding them in the water and associate being in the water with being with you,” Shanklin says.

Picking a swim school

Regardless of age, choose the swim school most suitable for your child.

Kim Burgess, executive director of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, says the instructor is the most important part. “I would suggest that like any other profession, the parent interview the instructor.”

Find out what certifications they have, how long they have been teaching, their teaching style, and if they have experience with your child’s age group and ability.

Look for a small class size. Batchelor says to make sure the swim school teaches kids according to their ability, not an age chart.

Getting the most out of lessons

In addition to learning to swim, taking swim lessons can increase your child’s confidence and improve their social, cognitive and physical development. It’s also great experience listening to a teacher, sharing and learning to take turns.

Batchelor advises parents to be consistent and positive.

“Even telling the instructor in front of your child, ‘He doesn’t like water on his face,’ emphasizes a child’s negative feelings and can transfer your concern to your child,” Batchelor says.

Having your child know how to swim is the first step to having a safe relationship with water, but it doesn’t stop there.

“Even if a child learns to swim, they are never totally safe,” says Gerald M. Dworkin, aquatics safety and water rescue consultant.

This article appeared in the May 2013 edition of Chicago Parent.