Summer is here again, and suddenly the cry is heard “Water Safety and the need for our little ones to have survival skills”
It seems like every time you read an article about water safety, the same things come up. We are all constantly told to be vigilant. That will always be the safest way to prevent accidents. We are advised to install pool fences. They are expensive but very necessary. Alarms should be added onto windows and doors and safety gates with childproof latches should be in place.
We all hear and see these good pieces of advice and yet we also know that tragedy still happens all too often!
I firmly believe that one vital piece of additional advice is often totally absent, and that is to have your little ones taught survival skills at the earliest possible age!
Even The American Pediatric Society has revised their opinion and totally agrees that survival lessons can be very valuable.
Teaching methods have improved so much over the last 10 years, that young toddlers are learning survival skills at an incredibly early age. Does it make them super swimmers, no, but it may well give your little child one more additional layer of protection! No, it should never replace supervision, alarms, fences, but when those layers of protection fail, and very sadly we know they do, it adds another layer which just might save a life!
The method that we have found to be the safest of all is to teach your little ones to roll over onto its back in order to be able to breathe and if necessary, cry for help. Drowning is often known as the “silent killer, because most small infants and children do not have the ability to lift their head out of the water, as the ratio of head weight to body weight in a young child is excessive. Teaching your very young toddler to roll over onto its back takes patience and perseverance, but is the best survival skill that you can give them.
Over the last 30 years of swim school ownership, we have heard so often of garden gates having been left open, of alarms that have low batteries and of neighbor/developments that did not have pool fence! We read with horror, the tragedy of the family whose child died, but we almost never read about the many more who survived but with terrible consequences. We also, happily, hear of our little “swimmers” who are alive and unharmed because of our survival lessons!
We, as parents often believe that, as we love our children, it cannot possibly happen to us. Sadly it can and does and the tragedy of drowning or near drowning knows no socio economic boundaries. It happens to the children of affluent parents and the less affluent. It happens to only children and ones in big families. It happens too often when many people are around, and to children who are often rarely missing for three minutes or less.
The best time to begin preparation for infant survival skills is in the bath tub, at a few days old. Start by preparing your baby for wet eyes and water on their face, Trickle it gently and do not wipe the water away. Many times at our Swim Schools, we meet children who are terrified of putting their eyes into the water and who want to wipe them with a towel. This is usually because, as loving parents, we have always taken great pains to wipe away the water, creating a really big problem initially for our future Olympians.
Lay your tot down in the tub and let water cover their ears. This will certainly do them no harm at all and will prepare them for the strange feeling and muffled sound that will be experienced at a pool.
Splash and make lots of happy noises from the very start. A swimming pool is often a noisy place and you need to prepare your baby as soon as possible. Do not be too gentle! We have found that more often than not, rough and tumble in water brings about a much happier child who learns survival skill much easier.
There has always been controversy as to the use of swim aids. Too use or not to use, that is the question? I can only give the opinion that we believe to be the best and that is to use! We have found that without fail, tots that are used to swim aids and can swim around in the pool without being constantly held, find it much easier to learn to swim. Being constantly held by an adult does not allow for fun and independent exploration. Babies young as nine to ten months can become very independent if we allow them to be.
Last, but not least, let your little one experience going under the water. Do not let them jump into a pool without experiencing the very true fact that if you do jump in, you will go under! Do it with the little one, slowly and gently, but going under, and learning to cope with this, is all part of survival skills. Make it great fun and they will learn never to panic.
Finally, one of the most fun things that you can share with your little one is a book on preparation for swimming lessons. My book “I Love to Swim” is a fun rhyming and informative read that is both for parent and child to enjoy. I hope that you both enjoy and learn.
Parents, you can do much work to prepare for the survival of your little ones. Remember also that it is not a skill that can be learnt and then discontinued, Survival skills need constant reinforcement and like most other skills that children learn, should be not be stopped and started. Look for a fun non traumatic survival program for your little ones. Know that it will take time. Do not be fooled by the offer of teaching them in a week. The skill will not remain! Take them year round and enjoy the knowledge that even though survival skills are your main aim, swimming is physically so very good for them also!
There are classes available at every price range and even at the very top Swim Schools they are not expensive on a year round basis. Often the price of a movie, but many many times more important!
It is most definitely well worth the investment!!!
We all want Survival of the Littlest!!!!!
Before opening her British Swim School locations in the USA, Rita Goldberg was a national swimmer in Britain. Working in the education system for many years, she left to open her own private swim school in 1981 in the basement of a Victorian house in Manchester, England. It was there she developed the unique teaching methods that have become the recognized trademark of British Swim School. 10 years later, Rita came to the US in 1991, started her British Swim School in Coral Springs, fl. British Swim School has grown rapidly and there are now several year-round British Swim School locations in three states – teaching swimming as one of the most important of all survival skills.