The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently updated it policy on swimming lessons for toddlers. Until now the AAP advised against swim lessons for children under four. However, in light of studies that show that children ages one to four are less likely to drown if they receive formal swim instruction, the AAP has revised its recommendation. A news release on the AAP website now states that, for children one to four years old, “Parents should decide whether to enroll an individual child in swim lessons based on the child’s frequency of exposure to water, emotional development, physical abilities, and certain health concerns. . .” That sound you hear is thousands of swim instructors giving each other a big high-five! Don’t tell us toddlers can’t learn to swim. We all have stories of a toddler we taught to swim falling into grandma’s pool on Thanksgiving and getting himself to safety.
Drowning is the leading cause of death in children under five – number two in children ages one to nineteen, with toddlers and teenage boys most at risk. It is true that each child learns to swim at his own pace based on many factors including general temperament and ability, the attitude of his or her parents and past experience with the water. Early exposure to swim lessons allows a toddler to develop his ability in the water as well as on land. Everyone in Southern California is exposed to water more than we realize. Even if there is not a pool in our own backyard, the neighbors have one. Plus there are community pools, parks, lakes and rivers. Many people now have inexpensive, large, inflatable pools that can be up to four feet deep. Waiting until a child is four or older only prolongs the length of time they are at risk by not knowing how to save themselves in the water. A good swim program will not only teach swimming, but also include a complete water safety program.
The AAP also warns, rightly so, that swim lessons are not enough to prevent drowning and emphasize “layers of protection”. The first and best “layer” is vigilant adult supervision around any water, including fountains and bathtubs. A child that knows how to swim is still vulnerable to injury. They also advise parents to learn CPR and completely fence backyard pools. Early swim lessons are another vital safety net to help prevent an emergency.
Batray can be a difficult level for some kids to conquer. It’s the floating. It’s the floating. It’s the floating. It is as much a mental game as a physical skill. First let’s examine the physics of floating.
The fact is – fat floats. This does not mean that if your child is a good floater she is overweight, just that proportionally she has enough fat on her body to help hold up her denser muscle and bone. Statistically speaking, the girls have it all over the boys on this one. Sure, there are some skinny-minnies that struggle with floating (our assistant manager recalls teaching a six year old girl with a six pack to float with no small difficulty), but they are in the minority. What this means for the slim-jims and skinny-minnies is that their body position must be perfect to maintain a back float. Anybody can learn to float, but the extremely slender child does not have any leeway on form.
If only adjusting body position was all it took! Walk out on the pool deck during any given lesson and you will hear instructors shouting themselves hoarse with cries of “Tummy UP!” and “Chin Back!” Children that, by rights, ought to bob like corks in the water are sinking like diving rings. This is because floating requires mental discipline as well as physical alignment. Most kids dislike the feeling of water in their ears. Then there is that business of laying on their backs like capsized turtles – an inherently vulnerable position sure to make any child feel uncomfortable and awkward. Top it off with a heaping helping of “Relax – and DON’T MOVE!” Stillness is not something that comes naturally to most kids.
So how does anyone learn to float? Practice! Most importantly, each child needs to develop the confidence to trust his/her ability to stay above the water. Very much a chicken/egg conundrum, but with practice, every child can get there.
Will teaching your child to swim save him or her from accidental drowning? Whatever other goals parents may have for enrolling their child in swim lessons, that is always their number one priority. The truth is swim lessons are like seat belts and holding your child’s hand when crossing the street – they provide another layer of protection, but there is more to water safety than putting on a swim suit once or twice a week. Education and training for an emergency are vital.
Several times a year Academy Swim Club holds “Safety Week” as part of our complete water safety program. During this week regular lessons focus on safety skills and preparing our swimmers for handling water emergencies. The most stunning example of this is when we ask our swimmers to jump into the water with their clothes on. All of our swimmers at every level are asked to come to lessons with their clothes on over their swim suit. Water makes clothes heavy and unwieldy, shoes make kicking more difficult – sensations that panic many children at first. That’s why we want their first experience swimming with their clothes on to come in a controlled environment where their instructor stands ready to help the swimmer float and get back to the wall. Panic can strike even the most confident young swimmer caught in an unfamiliar situation, such as falling into a pool while fully clothed. After Safety Week the strange feel of wearing clothes in the water is not new and they are better prepared to cope with this emergency.
Safety Week lessons also focus on what to do if you see someone struggling in the water, when to call 911 and personal flotation device (PFD) use. General rules that should be observed around water are discussed at length, including the most important one – NEVER SWIM ALONE! Drowning is 100% preventable and supervision is key to circumventing tragedy.
Our next Safety Week is from March 22nd through March 27th. Your child should wear regular street clothes (that you won’t mind taking a dip in our pool) over their swimsuit. Shoes and socks should also be worn. Jackets, sweatshirts, etc. also make the lesson more effective. Don’t forget to bring a change of clothes and bag to take the wet clothes home in!
Was your mother right? Is it dangerous to swim after eating? Do you really have to wait at least thirty minutes after eating to avoid stomach cramps and possibly drowning?
This “old wives” tale has been around for quite some time and has been perpetuated generation after generation by well meaning, but incorrectly informed, parents. There is not even one recorded case of anyone experiencing stomach cramps and drowning while swimming immediately after eating. As a matter of fact, long distance swimmers eat while in the water, swimming their endurance events.
Consumption of low fat, high carbohydrate foods can be nutritionally beneficial to elite competitive swimmers. However, not eating at all, or eating particular foods immediately before swimming will neither harm nor enhance the swimming ability of most typical recreational swimmers.
Engaging in intense exercise immediately after eating a heavy meal is not beneficial to proper digestion. You shouldn’t try to run a marathon immediately after consuming a Thanksgiving feast, nor should you compete in a long distance competitive swimming event. However, it wouldn’t hurt to go for a short walk around the block after a moderate meal, and neither would it be dangerous to swim a few laps. Just use common sense to decide when it’s appropriate to swim after eating.
An exception to this may be children enrolled in swimming lessons: Because there may be some anxiety or water ingestion, it would be prudent to not eat meat or dairy products within 2 hours of a lesson or any other rigorous exercise.
Ahh, Spring. The weather is getting warmer and our thoughts turn to tax preparation and the compulsive urge to vacuum under furniture. While these two things can be put off indefinitely (depending on your standards of housekeeping and how many extensions you can finagle from the IRS), water safety is one subjected that is best addressed right now. Nope, this isn’t a pitch to put your kids in swim lessons (but don’t let that stop you from doing it) – it’s to tell you about our amazing, educational, life-saving Aquatic Safety Awareness Program (A.S.A.P.)
And it doesn’t cost you a penny.
A.S.A.P. is the non-profit foundation begun by Jim and Nikki Miller over 10 years ago to educate the community about basic water safety. The national drowning statistics are horrifying – it’s the leading cause of death for children under 5 (and #2 for children under 14). Every spring A.S.A.P. Ambassadors travel to pre-schools and kindergartens across the Santa Clarita Valley to present a fun puppet show that highlights rules every child should know around water. Our spokesfish, Gus and Goldie, along with an accident-prone hammerhead shark and a type-A dolphin, illustrate important safety points such as “Never Swim Alone” and “Reach and Throw – Don’t Go”. The children are also given a Gus and Goldie coloring book, a parent’s guide to drowning prevention and a card good for a free swim lesson at Academy Swim Club.
Last year A.S.A.P. Ambassadors visited over 2100 students. This year we want to beat that number. If you have a 4 – 5 year old, ask your principal or pre-school director if he or she has scheduled a date for the A.S.A.P program. If not, ask that he or she contact Academy Swim Club to do so – A.S.A.P! It’s educational, it’s fun and it’s FREE. Best of all, it just might save a life.
This time of year, helping our children learn to swim becomes a priority. With the heat and daily access, children are finding water to plunge into, and we become keenly aware of how precious they are, and how easily we could loose them. Time to sign up for swim lessons!
If you are going to a facility or pool outside your home, look for cleanliness throughout the facility. Does the facility require showers before entering the water? Is the facility child friendly? Are there toys in the pool and around the deck to make it look like a fun place, or is it a sterile, work environment? What is the water temperature? Children learn best in 90 – 92 degree water.
With so many programs and teachers out there to choose from, how does one decide which one is best for their child? Some things to consider are what your goals for these lessons are: Is safety your primary concern, and you want your child swimming ASAP? Swimming 3 days a week is a good choice. Swimming 4 or 5 days may sound better, but often it is met with resistance from the child, and results in their lack of enthusiasm and a waste of your money. Is safety part of the program, or is the teacher just going to teach your child how to swim? Are you interested in having your child swim on a team one day? Your instructor should be proficient at teaching freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. Are you looking for a fun activity for your child with no hurry? Your instructor should know this, and be very patient. What are your child’s and the instructor’s personalities, and will they work well together? Just because an instructor is super with one child, does not mean that s/he can adapt to another child with an opposite personality. If the instructor is the same with all students, s/he may not be right for your child. A very outgoing instructor may be overwhelming for a shy child. What motivates your child to learn? Watching other children? Being first in line? Praise from the instructor? Your attention and praise during the lesson? Prizes after the lesson? You should consider all of these in deciding group, semi-private, or private lessons, to get the most bang out of your buck.
Last week we gave you a checklist of things to bring to a swim lesson (Swimsuit? Check!). This week we thought we’d share a few more tips to help make your child’s swim lessons a happy success.
If your child is still taking naps try to schedule his lesson for an hour or so after he normally wakes up. Tired kids are cranky kids, and the ones that just woke up aren’t always too perky either.
Give your child a snack 30 minutes before her lesson. Make it something light that will deliver energy for swimming. Fruit is good, but avoid meat and dairy. Probably best to skip that Happy Meal with chocolate milk rather than chance it making a reappearance in the pool.
Arrive early to allow time for your child to become accustomed to the surroundings. It will decrease nervousness and spark curiosity about the pool and lesson. Hopefully he will have a chance to watch his instructor teaching another child.
Talk to the instructor about your child’s swimming experience, personality and your goal for lessons. Instructors will always try to adapt to your desires – whether you want a no-pressure, relaxed lesson or a more forceful approach. As lessons continue let the instructor know about anything unusual going on in your child’s life. If you’ve got family from Italy visiting for a month, the instructor will understand that she is more distracted and tired and adjust the lesson.
Put on a happy face. It’s important to show your child a positive attitude toward swim lessons, especially if he is anxious or scared. Listen carefully to his fears and promise him that you will both speak to the instructor about them. Use confident, fun language and avoid saying things like, “You won’t have to go under water today.” Your instructor will, of course, do what you ask, but you’ve reinforced the idea that going under water is a bad thing that your child must be protected from. Instead, reassure him that his instructor will always help him and he will get better with practice. Then talk to the instructor about your child’s specific fears. Usually there is a gentle way to take a step in the right direction that everyone can happily live with. Whatever you do, DON’T pull your child out of the lesson early because he is crying. It will make it much harder to get lessons on track; he will continue crying because it gets him out of the pool instead of accepting that he must stay in for the whole lesson. Remember, your child will pick up on your attitude, so make sure you project the right one!
Finally, give your child another snack after the lesson. Moving around in the water burns a lot of energy – she will be hungry, and probably tired, too. If she still takes naps, schedule one for after the lesson as well. Many of our Baby Swim parents say they love the nice, long naps their babies take after class.
As always, our office staff and instructors are here to help you in any way we can. Be sure to ask one of us about any specific concerns.
This time of year we enroll a lot of new swimmers and many parents wonder what they need to bring to lessons. Here is a handy checklist to help you prepare.
Can’t Live Without:
A swimsuit and towel (you’d be surprised how often these are forgotten at home).
Hair bands to tie back long hair.
TWO health department approved swim diapers (children under 36 months). They are reuseable and cut like underpants with elastic around the waist and leg openings that fit your child snugly. They are available for purchase at our front desk. Children under three must wear TWO swim diapers. Little Swimmers can be worn as well, but they still must wear two reusable swim diapers.
Nice to Have:
Waterproof toy. Some children feel more secure if they can bring something from home into the pool.
Shampoo/body wash and lotion. All of our showers are equipped with liquid soap, and soap showers are required before entering the pool, but feel free to use your own soap from home if you prefer. Also, we recommend washing with soap after a lesson to decrease itchy, dry skin. If this is an issue for your child, lotion will help as well. Many parents shampoo their child’s hair at that time and dispense with the need for a bath later.
Blow Dryer. Electrical outlets are located in our bathrooms if you would like to dry your child’s hair before leaving the building.
Snack. Moving through water makes you tired and hungry so you might want to pack something for your child to eat when they get out of the pool.
Many parents limit swimming to the warm summer months believing that their child will get sick if they swim during the winter. The fact is children are no more likely to catch a cold from swimming during winter than during summer. Children are more susceptible to colds and the flu during winter, it’s true, because school is in session and they are in close contact with each other. Also, the viruses that cause infections thrive during the dry cooler months. And those viruses are sneaky little ninjas. Of course you wouldn’t send your child to school if he is sick, but he’s contagious even before the first symptoms of illness appear. Kids, being kids and not particularly concerned about hygiene, spread these germs across everything they touch or breathe on. With their brand new immune systems, children don’t have the anti-bodies to fight off most of the viruses they run into. Most children come down with 6 to 10 viral infections a year! It’s not the water making kids sick – a properly chlorinated pool is probably one of the cleanest places a child can be.
So here are a few points to consider regarding winter swimming:
* Swimming in winter poses no threat to children with functioning immune systems. Our pool is indoors and the water is heated to 90 – 92 degrees. As long as you quickly and thoroughly dry your child and change him into warm clothes he’s no more at risk from catching a cold after swimming than he is after his bath.
* Regular exercise helps keep the body, including the immune system, strong. Studies conducted in Germany indicated that swimming children are actually healthier than their non-swimming friends. (Take that evil virus ninjas!)
* Year round swimming ensures that children do not forget skills learned between summers. Plus, it allows new skills to be taught at the most advantageous developmental age.
If you want more information on colds and flu’s, check out the links below.
“Can babies really learn to swim?” We are asked this question by parents in our Infant Survival program all the time. To which we answer, “YES!”
We like to tell the story of Nikki and her infant son, Garrett. Nikki, as many of you may know, is the owner of Academy Swim Club. Almost two decades ago she was training a group of instructors in preparation of the seasonal opening of her swim school (back in the bad old days before we had this wonderful indoor, heated, climated controlled pool). Three days a week for a month she would take Garrett, who was about 7 months old, into the pool for 3-5 hours a day. When he wasn’t being passed around to the instructor trainees to practice on he would play on the steps. Sure, he occasionally slipped off the steps and fell in, but someone was always there to give him a nudge back to safety. At the end of the month, Garrett could swim. Not just put his face in the water and kick, but also roll over, float, catch his breath, then roll back over and keep swimming. You can see his underwater baby picture hanging behind our front desk. (He’s an instructor here now, so if you see him, be sure to compliment him on his attractive rainbow, leopard-print swim diaper.)
“But WAIT!” you cry. “I don’t have 3-5 hours a day, 3 days a week to spend in the water!” And that’s the best part. You don’t have to. The important thing to remember in Garrett’s story is this: #1 – he was consistently put in the pool. The intense amount of time just meant he learned to swim faster, but the consistency is what made it possible. 25 minutes twice per week will still get you to the same place if you consistently attend class. #2 – the attitude of the people teaching him was positive and confident. No one acted like the water was something Garrett had to be protected from. Instead he was given the chance to swim and his attempts were supported.
We have many more examples of infants and young toddlers swimming in our Baby Swim classes. They prove that it is possible for babies to learn to swim if given the opportunity and encouragement.