Over the summer most of our staff (along with the rest of the planet) saw this little movie called The Avengers. Thumbs up from everyone here at ASC , by the way. What’s not to love? A bunch of attractive super heroes, each with a unique skill set, working together to save the world. In examining those skills, it occurred to me that, put’em together, they’d make an awesome swim instructor. Over the next few weeks we’re going to showcase the unique quality each member possesses that would make him (or her!) a valuable addition to Academy Swim Club.
Iron Man: What he brings to the team – Equipment. Tony Stark has all the cool toys. Each has a purpose, but most can be adapted to other uses. We’ve got our own toy box full of barbells and dumbbells and belts. Our instructors have found more uses for them than WD-40. Even our playtime toys serve a purpose. A simple game of catch with a ball or rocket is actually a trust building exercise that strengthens the bond between instructor and swimmer – and that’s worth more than Stark Industries when you’ve got a weepy 3 year old at his first swim lesson.
Next week – Thor brings down the hammer.
The weather was hot, the water was wet,
the pool was as full as it could get.
We gathered together for fun in the sun,
all to say “Thanks!” to our fab patrons.
Ryan and his band The Early Risers came,
and they rocked, yeah, they rocked you like a hurricane.
Captain Jack sauntered in with a pirate swagger,
Made balloon swords and called for a lager.
Our instructors risked all for the sake of charity
As water balloon targets to help JACK D!***
The hot dogs were grillin’
The lemonade was flowin’
The bounce house was hoppin’
And the games were rollin’
So thanks to our staff who volunteered so generously,
And thanks to all of you, our wonderful ASC families!
*** We are collecting donations all week to benefit Jack D., a 4 year old former swimmer at Academy Swim Club who was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. For more info visit www.JacksAngels.org.
Meet the humble swim diaper. It’s got a dirty job to do, and it does it well. All swimmers under 36 months must wear TWO health department approved swim diapers at Academy Swim Club. If you’ve got a swimmer who is under three, or is perhaps older but not yet, shall we say, reliable, we’d like to get you guys together. Below is a quick rundown of what a swim diaper is, why you need it, and where you can get it.
What is a Health Department Approved Swim Diaper? A fancy name for underpants with two layers of tightly woven fabric and heavy-duty elastic around the waist and legs. This stylish, reusable garment has one purpose – to keep poop inside the diaper (making it eco-friendly in more ways than one.) It should fit snugly, but not so much so that it cuts off circulation. They are sized by weight and age. You may want to buy a size up for the outer swim diaper. Huggies Lil’ Swimmers or other disposable diapers won’t work. The only thing they keep contained are baby bottoms, not what comes out of them. Some parents do layer a Lil’ Swimmer under the approved swim diapers to keep clean up simple in the case of accidents. Just remember that a disposable Lil’ Swimmer does not replace one of the required reusable swim diapers.
Why are two swim diapers required? Firstly, because the Health Department told us so, and we never say “no” to the Health Department. They don’t have to buy us dinner first or anything. Secondly, because a fecal incident (those are the actual words on the form we have to fill out after one occurs) creates an unbelievable mess. Our pool is a pretty high tech affair, with pumps, jets, filters and all manner of diagnostic whatsits designed to circulate the water and ensure it is contaminant free. You could probably launch a space shuttle from our equipment room. However, all that circulation works against us once a little digestive waste hits the water and gets spread from end to end. Then we have to shut down the pool for the remainder of the current lesson and all of the next one while we vacuum and scoop – and the reality of that is even more disgusting than it sounds. That’s also a lot of parents who wasted their time driving to our facility for their child to only receive half a lesson or none at all. Worst case scenario, we’re shut down for the rest of the day. Double diapering doesn’t seem like much bother compared to all of that, right?
Where can I buy swim diapers? Academy Swim Club sells them at the front desk, but you can also find them during the warm months at Target, Walmart, Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, etc. We don’t care where you buy them, as long as they meet the health department’s standards. Some baby swimsuits come with built-in swim diapers that can function as one of the diapers, which is handy.
If you have any questions about swim diapers, give us a call, shoot us an email, or just stop by the front desk. We are more than happy to help!
This is it. We’re in the home stretch. Your instructors have only one last thing they want to tell you . . .
Stay the Course. Translated, that means DON’T PULL YOUR CHILD OUT EARLY! If you do, even once, she will cry all the harder during the next lessons because, hey, it worked before, right? This is the same intermittent reward system that hooks gamblers. So read a book, call a friend, go to the front desk and watch the lesson on the TV – just make sure her bikini stays in the water for the full 25 minutes. Ultimately, this approach shortens the time it takes for your child to adjust to lessons.
Why do kids stop crying? Wish I knew. Sometimes an instructor finds the trick that soothes them. I know one instructor who can get almost any kid to stop crying by repeatedly bouncing a ball off the wall. It’s hypnotizing. Others feel it is simply a matter of time. One day, after a pre-determined but unknown amount of time, a switch flips and the child comes to the lesson ready to play and learn. And it should be reassuring that a child’s initial reaction to swim lessons has absolutely nothing to do with her future liking or aptitude for the water.
Just wait, a few lessons down the road and you’ll be the one patting some new parent on the shoulder and saying, “Hang in there; it get’s better.”
It’s Week 3 in our series of things we wish parents knew before the start of swim lessons. This time we want you to
Watch From A Safe Distance. That means the viewing area. If your child is really crying, preferably the back of the viewing area. You would think the sight of you would reassure him. Unfortunately the only thing he wants from you is the reassurance you are going to come and get him, pronto! Unless you are walking towards him with a towel, it’s best to play least in sight. Many an instructor has spent long, long minutes singing nursery rhymes, making funny faces and noises, to finally be rewarded by a small moment of silence or even a smile. Then, the child spots his parent and it’s back to square one. Square one is not a happy place. Please don’t make us go there.
Next week we finish up with Staying the Course.
So you’ve made the decision to stick with swim lessons for at least 3 lessons, but your work is not done yet. . .
Keep Calm and Carry On. Your attitude will set the tone for all the lessons to follow. Try to stay cheerful and moderately excited, as if you and your child were having an outing in the park. Your child is tuned into your feelings and looks to you for security. If you are nervous, tense, worried, unsure, you can bet she will be, too. If you treat the lesson as normal, safe and possibly fun, she’ll have an easier time believing it – it just may take a few lessons first.
Next week we’ll discuss Watching from a Safe Distance.
*** Interesting side note: The slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” was first thought up by some bright bulb British civil engineer around 1939 or thereabouts. The British Ministry of Information released a couple of morale boosting propaganda posters during the early years of WWII, but was saving this one in the case of invasion by Germany. Luckily, it was never distributed for it’s original purpose.
Some kids never cry. You know the ones I mean. These are the babies that have never met a stranger. As toddlers they launch into new activities with enthusiasm. They sleep through the night at birth. If you’re lucky enough to have such a child as this, well, good for you. This article is for the rest of us, because when starting swim lessons a solid percentage of young kids are going to wail their heads off. It’s nothing personal, just biology, really. Babies and toddlers are hardwired to communicate by crying. What they are really saying is a salty version of, “No, I’d really rather not go with that stranger in the big bathtub.” We understand, kid, but we’d really rather you didn’t take a header into a pool and not be able to save yourself.
Our experienced ASC instructors have a few things we wish every parent bringing their child to swim lessons for the first time knew. Over the next four weeks we’re going to lay it out for you. Here’s the first thing you need to remember:
Stick It Out. Three lessons is the average amount of time it takes for the instructor to stop being a stranger and a bond to develop. For many kids, the first swim lesson is his first experience with being entrusted to a teacher without Mom or Dad present. A child may also protest for the first few lessons strictly on principle; an automatic, knee-jerk “NO” to anything new. If you haven’t experienced this colorful bit of toddler behavior yet, wait – you can count on it making periodic appearances at the family dinner table. (“It’s disgusting! I hate it!”; “What do you mean? You’ve never had it before!” But I digress. . .) In any event, give it three lessons. If you still don’t see any hope of your child ever enjoying himself, or at least quietly resigning himself to the inevitable, talk it over with your instructor and the office staff. There are other options you can explore in your quest for a watersmart kid.
Come back next week when we Keep Calm and Carry On.
The key to preventing childhood drowning is supervision; however studies have estimated that up to 90% of children who drown were reportedly supervised when the incident occurred. The best protection is an adult educated about and focused on water safety. Here are a few simple steps you can take to become water smart:
- Designate a Water Watcher. Many parents accompany their child to the pool, but read a book, play on their phone, or otherwise divert their attention away from the action in the water. Remember: children drown without a sound . . . in just a few seconds. Whenever and wherever children are swimming, designate a person who will focus solely on supervising the splashing. He or she should not leave the pool area (or lake, river, etc.) until a replacement arrives or the children leave the water. It can be a mind-numbing job, so Water Watchers should trade off fairly regularly.
- Always bring a phone to the pool, lake, river, etc. You won’t want to waste precious minutes racing to the house to call 911. Make sure the phone is placed in a high, dry place. DO NOT leave it in a pocket. Chances are you wouldn’t stop to remove the phone from your pocket before jumping into the water to rescue a child.
- Check the water first. If you notice that your child is no longer happily mashing Cheerios into the living room carpet where you left her, look where the water is first. Parents have searched for their toddler in the house for 15 minutes before finally looking in the pool. Early medical intervention is vital, so be sure to first scout out the pool, pond, fountain, toilet or any other place where an exploring child could run into water trouble.
- Learn CPR. Minutes make a huge difference when it comes to receiving emergency care. The CPR class is only a few hours and the cost is cheap compared to a child’s life. Contact the American Red Cross or your local hospital for information on upcoming classes in the area.
Childhood drowning is preventable. Educated adult supervision, together with swimming lessons and barriers, combine to wrap children in layers of protection.
Every instructor at Academy Swim Club wants their students to be capable of saving their own life in a water emergency. What we’d like even better is to prevent the emergency in the first place. Supervision is, of course, imperative, but there are easier ways to police your pool.
- Fences. Nothing could be simpler. You can opt for a permanent, wrought iron masterpiece or the flexibility of a removable fence. Whichever option you choose, we recommend installing a key lock of some type (an ordinary padlock will do). We’ve heard too many stories of precocious preschoolers able to operate the latch on a pool gate (by balancing on lawn chairs, tricycles, pets, etc.) Just make sure the key is placed in some unlikely, inaccessible spot as well.
- Safety Pool Covers. These are mesh or solid covers that are pulled taut and secured to the deck at recessed brackets. Flimsy solar covers offer no protection against drowning, but safety covers are strong enough for an adult to walk on and offer warranties of up to 25 years. The mesh ones also allow rain to pass through while keeping out leaves and debris. We’re keeping pools clean and saving kids’ lives – how’s that for multi-tasking?
- Alarms. You’ve got a lot of options here: in-pool alarms, gate alarms, door alarms. The technology for in-pool alarms has improved in recent years so that the siren doesn’t go off every time a leaf falls into the pool. Gate alarms not only alert you when a child opens the gate, but also when an adult fails to close the gate. Door alarms are placed at all house doors that lead to pool access. Our absolute favorite “alarm” isn’t an alarm at all. One of our ASC parents has a security system that announces any door that is opened (“Back Door – Open,” in a feminine voice like the computer in Star Trek). Pretty handy when you’re as worried about the kids escaping into the front yard as the back.
So which one should you get? You need to judge what will work best with your family, but ideally you need more than one barrier or alarm. There is no ONE sure fire way to protect your children from drowning; the trick is to wrap them in layers of protection. Swim lessons, barriers and alarms, and educated supervision all work together to keep kids safe, each making up for deficiencies in the other methods. Think of it like planning a balanced meal and choose one from each group.
Safety Week at Academy Swim Club contains a lot of information, but these three easy water safety rules just might save your child’s life. Review them early and often for a watersmart kid!
1. Never swim alone – Always swim with a grown-up!
This is the number one rule in the pool. Even a good swimmer can get a cramp or hit his head and need help. Oh, and make sure your child understands what age qualifies as an adult. A three year old might consider her ten year old cousin a “grown up”.
2. Never jump in to save someone–Get a grown-up (or Reach & Throw–Don’t Go)
Some kids will instinctively jump into a pool to rescue another child that is struggling, especially a sibling or close friend or relative. It is especially important to train young children that the best way to help is to tell an adult (again, making sure they are clear on who makes the cut-off). Reassure your child that he will not be in trouble (even if he broke the rules and snuck out to the pool with his little sister). In the event that an adult is not available for some reason, school age children can be taught Reach and Throw rescues. The rescuer holds out a hand, towel, noodle, etc. for the child in the water to grab ahold of, and then tows her back to the side. The rescuer MUST lie on his/her tummy while pulling the victim to safety so s/he is not accidentally pulled into the water as well.
3. Wall Walk to the Steps
Wall walking is like the Vice President of water safety skills – unappreciated and overlooked, but really, really important in the case of an emergency. If your child falls into a pool then manages to grab the wall, the safest way to exit is to wall walk to the stairs (not to be confused with the ladder, which can be slippery). He should NOT try to climb out at the side. Chances are he will fall back in and not have the energy to make it back to the wall again. It’s a good idea to practice wall walking to the left and right – toddlers can become so used to wall walking in one direction that it becomes impossible for them to go the other way.
Talk to your child about these rules regularly, emphasizing the actions he or she should take in case of a water emergency.