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Tips to keep your kids safe at the pool and beach this summer

July 16, 2017

Katherine Daum, Aquatics Coordinator at the NCH Wellness Center

In my 17 years of lifeguarding, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a parent say, “My child knows how to swim,” or “I just turned my back for a moment.” Those split-second moments are what can transform our lives. Simply put, no adult, child or infant is safe from drowning. However, parents can take steps to reduce their children’s risk of drowning, starting by signing them up for swim lessons!

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that children who received formal swimming lessons between the ages of 1 and 4 were 88 percent less likely to drown.

So many opportunities are available for children today to participate in learn-to-swim programs. Many of the programs feature fun sea animals, warm water pools and even fancy sticker books. Yet, these added amenities do not protect or safeguard your child any more than do traditional swimming lessons.

Essentials children need to learn in swim programs

Swimming lessons for preschool-age children must focus on water safety. By the time children are 5 years old, they should be able to:

  • Know what to do if they were to fall in the water
  • How to call for help
  • Recognize a lifeguard
  • Know and follow general pool rules

School-age children and young adults should work on:

  • Stroke development
  • Endurance
  • Treading water
  • Conserving energy in a back-floating position

Tips to protect your children in and around the water

  1. Make sure children do not go in the water until an adult is in there with them. The adult should always be the first one in the water and the last one out.
  2. Enroll your child, age 3 and over, in formal swim lessons. To progress, a child should take a minimum of one lesson per week.
  3. Do not assume that wearing a life vest guarantees your child’s safety. Toddlers can drown in as little as one inch of water. Oftentimes, life vests are front-heavy, making it difficult for babies and toddlers to roll onto their backs while wearing them. Their faces may end up in the water.
  4. Keep a constant eye on your child, no matter his or her age or comfort level in the water.
  5. Ensure your child takes a 15-minute break for every two hours he or she spends in the water.
  6. Always remind your children about what they should do if they ever find themselves in trouble in the water. Practice these safety principles, discuss them, teach them. Children absolutely must learn to roll on their backs and scream as loud as they can for help. Also, explain to them that they should never call for help unless they truly need it.
  7. Remember, lifeguards are the last defense against drowning.

For information on swim lessons at the NCH Wellness Center, call 847-618-3500.