Did you know that a child’s brain develops connections faster in the first five years than at any other time in their lives? Think of all the lessons we teach them within their first five years; we teach them to walk and talk, and to make safe and responsible choices like looking both ways before they cross the street. We teach them that their bodies are resilient yet fragile so we strap helmets and protective padding to their bodies to prevent injury. We enroll them in school to expand their academic knowledge. But what if we’re missing one of the most important lessons? A lesson that’s not required on a local, state, or national level but could save their life –learning how to swim.
Why Are Swim Lessons So Important?
Living in Central Florida we’ve seen an enormous uptick in accidental drownings. In fact, Florida loses more children to unintentional drownings under the age of 5 than any other state in the nation. A large percentage of those drownings consist of families –both local and vacationing– who didn’t think drowning could happen to them because “someone was watching,” the “door was locked,” or they “only took their eyes off them for a second.” Unfortunately, drowning deaths are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children aged 0–17 years and the leading cause for those aged 1–4. You don’t have to own a pool or live near large bodies of water for a child to drown. People can and do drown even where lifeguards are present. The one major factor in decreasing the risk of drowning is knowing how to swim or float.
What Can I Do To Prevent Drowning?
Drowning prevention requires a multi-layered approach that includes the ABC & D of water safety; Adult supervision (within arms reach), Barriers (gates, fences, door and window alarms), Classes (CPR and swim lessons), and Devices (life jackets and other life saving tools like a shepherd's hook or life saving ring). The "C" or swim classes aspect of this multi-layered approach is the step that would most benefit a child who accidentally falls in while unsupervised.
How To Find The Best Swim Class For You:
We created a streamlined list of 5 key things to look for before choosing a swimming course or instructor and they're as follows:
1. They Allow You to Observe First: This one is fairly self-explanatory. If the instructor won’t allow you to observe a lesson in progress this is a red flag. You should be able to see how attentive the instructors are, the style they teach, and how they interact with the swimmers while in and out of the water. Is the atmosphere age appropriate? Are they within arms reach of all beginner swimmers? Do they model water-safety practices in real time? If you’re not seeing it, chances are they’re not doing it.
2. Instructors Are Certified And Experienced: Instructors should proudly display their qualifications –not only in their facility, but throughout their marketing as well. Check out their website, social media profiles, and community outreach initiatives. If they fail to mention their accolades, credentials or accomplishments, it’s not an accident. Swim instructors should be trained and certified through a nationally recognized learn-to-swim curriculum –-they should also hold a current CPR and First Aid certification. Here's a perfect example from one of our local swim programs here in Central Florida.
3. They Offer Survival Swim Lessons: Survival swim lessons are geared towards much younger swimmers. Most courses begin as young as 6 months and go up through age 6 (the AAP recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning starting at age 1). These courses generally teach a swim-float-swim sequence to self-rescue if the child were to accidentally fall into a pool or body of water unsupervised. Lessons should provide training with a variety of realistic conditions, such as falling in and swimming in clothes. Older children should also learn what to do if they see someone else in the water who is struggling, and how to find help.
4. Water Conditions and Upkeep: This is another reason why a facility should allow you access BEFORE you sign up. Take note of the pool conditions, is the water clear and clean of debris? Is the facility managed well? Do they have protocols in place if there’s an “accident” in the pool? Is the temperature consistent and warm? For swimmers under age 3 the risk of hypothermia is greater –temperatures should be kept between 87-94°F to avoid this. No child should have to swim in unsafe or unclean facilities.
5. They Require Multiple Sessions: Once children start lessons, you should be able to see a gradual and consistent progress in their abilities. It’s important to have an instructor or facility that can continue their education and training so swimmers don’t backslide. Swimming skills require maintenance!
Although many factors contribute to drownings and near drownings, it’s clear that the lack of ability to swim is a leading factor. So if you haven’t already, it’s time to get your kids enrolled in an age and skill appropriate swim lesson course to reduce their risk of drowning by 88%. Parent supervision is aided through increased visibility, dressing your little ones in bright, high-contrast swimwear like this helps!
LifeBrite Active donates a portion of every sale towards swim lesson scholarships in an effort to end unintentional drownings.