Is your child at risk of drowning? If they are ever exposed to a backyard pool, dam, creek, ocean, bathtub, laundry, pet bowl or a bucket of water, then the answer is yes. Here are some tips from Grace Swimming to helping your family ensure that water safety is a priority.
1. Exposure to water
Exposing your children to a range of Aquatic environments is a pivotal part of developing a healthy relationship with swimming. For infants and young children, it is important to make interactions with water a positive, fun and playful experience. While you may be nervous about your child's first experiences around water (and rightly so!), try to stay positive – children learn a fear of water, and if you are excited it will make it easier for them to be too. Making bath time fun, talking about swimming excitedly and exposing children to conditioning at home by getting their face and hair wet with verbal cues, will all help prepare your child for learning how to swim. Most importantly, constant supervision at all times is essential.
Swimming lessons are a must for everyone. Taking formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% in children aged 1-4. (Source: Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine). When infants reach 6 months old, their immune system has fully developed and their cognitive development enables them to develop skills and concepts faster. They begin to engage with purpose, and begin to organise their world through repetitive interactions within their environment. They are also able to coordinate looking, hearing and touching, (Source: Aussie Childcare Network) so this is a great time to start lessons. Lots of swim schools/centres have Infant Programs, and a good swim school will educate parents on how to educate their child, and explain what skills are being developed in different activities. The skills we teach are learnable, but need constant practice – so this gives parents the opportunity to teach and practice by applying these skills outside of swimming lessons. Children develop a fear of water as they get older, so the earlier they are introduced to the water, the faster they will adapt to the aquatic environment and develop safety skills. BUT, it’s never too late – so the sooner the better, whether it be for your children or for you!
3. Be consistent
It is important to prioritise your child’s water safety, and give them the best possible chance at surviving in an aquatic emergency. Repetition and consistency are key, and if children aren't practicing the skills learned in lessons regularly, they will regress and lose their abilities in the water. It is tempting for many families to pull their children out of swimming lessons as other activities fill up the schedule, or in the cooler months - but try to persevere: Swimming is not just a sport, it is an essential survival skill for everyone. Get out and practice what your child learns in lessons in different environments, continue to discuss water safety with the whole family, and try enrolling in more than one lesson a week.
We all want our children to be confident and love the water, but overconfident children are most at risk of drowning. It is important to set boundaries and be consistent in enforcing them. Make sure that your children know not to go anywhere near water without you, and make sure they are invited in to the water by you every time you go swimming. If the Instructors in your lessons use the same verbal cue for your child to enter the water all the time, use the same verbal cue outside of lessons to reinforce the rules. Royal Life suggests that when visiting new aquatic locations, to examine them with your child and discuss any safety issues and rules for that location together. Consistency with these rules will help them learn the dangers of water and set down clear boundaries.
5. Restrict Access & Active Supervision
Restricting access is a very important part of ensuring your children are safe. Make sure you have regulation fencing, and don't leave water unattended in accessible places around the house, such as buckets of water and bathtubs. On average, five children under the age of five drown in bathtubs each year. The majority of bathtub drowning deaths in Australia are of children under two years old who were already in the bathtub when they drowned, (Source: Royal Life Saving Australia) so while it is tempting to slip out for a second, remember that drowning occurs quickly and quietly. Constant, active supervision is imperative. When children are playing in the water, Royal Life suggests dedicating a supervisor to watch who has an item such as a hat. If the adult in charge of active supervision needs to leave, the hat must be passed to someone else - this prevents complacency or everyone assuming that someone else is watching.
Most importantly, we want our children to love and enjoy swimming. You can teach a lesson for a day but if you teach curiosity, you teach for a lifetime. You can book in your free assessment with Grace Swimming by calling 3204 2725. We offer a range of programs from Infant Classes, Learn to Swim, Stroke Development, Squads and Adult Squad.
This article is a set of guidelines, always seek advice from professionals and communicate with your Swimming Instructor/Centre before enforcing rules on swimming and water safety.
Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 2009