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
If your child takes swimming lessons, there is an 88 percent
reduction of a drowning risk. And Sara Batchelor, director of
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
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,"
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
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
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
Kristen Kuchar is a freelance writer living in Naperville.
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