Swimming is an important skill that most (if not all) kids should be taught. Even if you aren't the pool or beach type you never know when a kid will encounter water. Rivers, lakes, creeks, fish ponds, neighbor's pools, wading pools, fountains, even tubs are everywhere and can be potential hazards.
As a teenager I spent a lot of time at the pool--swimming competitively, teaching swim lessons, coaching, and guarding. Post graduation I've had a much more limited access to the water, but I still love it and hope that my child(ren) will too!
Here are a couple of tips:
- Bring your little ones to the pool early in their life! Many parent and child classes start as early as six months. While your child obviously isn't going to learn to swim at these classes they can be a great way to introduce him to the water. Most pools have swim lessons available, take advantage of them! (Studies are mixed, but some indicate that children aged one through four have an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning with formal lessons.)
- If they accidentally go under water do not freak out, they will pick up on this and think that it is something to fear.
- Teach them early to blow bubbles in the water--"blow out the candle".
- At first most kids hate getting their ears wet, help them get comfortable doing this--"listen to the fish".
- Once they are a little comfortable in the water teach them to float on their backs. Tell them to float when they get too tired to swim or when they can't touch the bottom. When I was guarding I remember one little girl who got pushed into deep water. She could not swim, but before the closest guard got to her she was floating easily on her back with a giant smile on her face.
- Do not rely on water wings--I can't tell you how often they slip off of kids arms. As a lifeguard I hated those things! Parents always seemed to have such confidence in them and would allow their non-swimming children in over their head and sure enough one wing would come off and the poor kid would be drowning. This goes for all other flotation devices as well. If you are looking for straight up safety find a Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Do not depend on the lifeguards to watch your child. Every pool is different--the main pool where I guarded we aimed for a 30-1 patron to guard ratio but many other places can be as high (or higher) as 75-1. Have you ever tried to keep an eye on 75 people at once? Do everyone a favor--watch your kid(s).
- Be vigilant, a young child can drown in as little as an inch of water and in less than two minutes.
What are you doing with your toddlers this week? What did you do last week? I'd love to see!