As the weather heats up so too does the swimming season, but leading swim safety advocate Laurie Lawrence from Kids Alive, is urging parents to make sure their children have the necessary water safety skills ready for summer.
“We have been in COVID lock up and swimming lessons have been really interrupted, so there is a dire need for kids to get back in the pool and build their swimming and water safety skills again,” he says.
“I’m worried about the impact of the lack of pool time on children this swim season. I don’t want to see an increase in drownings.”
“Swimming lessons introduce children to some fundamental skills that could save their life. Children learn these lifesaving skills overtime, that is why the earlier you start lessons the better. Learning to swim is one of the major steps in drowning prevention and we must get kids back into the pool now.”
Lawrence says there are five important skills every child needs to know to make them more capable and safer in the water, but he reinforces that supervision should remain number one priority.
5 lifesaving skills every child should know
1. Turning to the ledge
This involves teaching the child to always seek the edge in the pool, so that if they happened to fall in their first reaction will be to turn around and seek out the edge of the pool. This is a building block activity where children learn to turn to a parent first, turn to a ledge, turn to a deck level pool, and finally turn to a high wall.
2. Monkey Monkey
Children learn to grip the side of the pool and move around a pool by holding onto the edge and shifting their body sideways along it. This action allows children to move around the side of the pool and exit the water at steps or ladders. Babies and toddlers will be able to perform this skill before they have the physical skills to climb out at a high wall.
3. Climbing out of the pool
If a child falls in the first instinct needs to be to get out but this takes strength and coordination, which is learnt by teaching them how to use their body to climb out of the pool. Some good key words to teach children is ‘elbow, elbow, tummy, knee, knee’.
4. Back floating
From a front position in the water children learn to roll over onto their back to clear their airways and ensure they are facing the right way to get air. Back floating should be encouraged but never forced. Slowly build this skill be teaching children to relax and lay with their head on the parent’s shoulder. Gradually extend this skill by gently supporting the child under the shoulders. Shallow water is also great for teaching timid beginners to back float.
5. Taking a breath
This skill shows a child how to be comfortable in the water and rise to the surface of the water, to take a breath and keep swimming towards the edge of the pool. When children learn to swim and breathe, often they will bob on the spot in a vertical position. Concentrate on building strong propulsive skills like kicking and paddling to help move them back into the horizontal swimming position.
Laurie says that ultimately, all these strategies build a child’s confidence in the water so that if they find themselves in trouble, they’re less likely to panic. Instead they’ll instinctively use the skills they have learned at swimming lessons.
“If children are not back in the pool yet or haven’t started lessons now is the time. Combine regular opportunities to play with formal swimming lessons for best results.”