Swimming lessons save lives: What parents should know

Before going any further, here’s the main thing parents should know about swimming lessons: all children should have them.

Every day, about 11 people die from drowning in the United States. Swimming lessons can’t prevent all of those deaths, but they can prevent a lot of them. A child doesn’t need to be able to swim butterfly or do flip turns, but the ability to get back to the surface, float, tread water, and swim to where they can stand or grab onto something can save a life.

10 things parents should know about swimming lessons

As you think about swimming lessons, it’s important to know:

1.  Children don’t really have the cognitive skills to learn to swim until they are around 4 years old. They need to be able to listen, follow directions and retain what they’ve learned, and that’s usually around 4 years old, with some kids being ready a little earlier.

2.  That said, swim lessons between 1 and 4 years old can be useful. Not only are some kids simply ready earlier, but younger children can also learn some skills that can be useful if they fall into the water, like getting back to the side of a pool.

3.  The pool or beach where children learn must be safe. This sounds obvious, but safety isn’t something you can assume; you need to check it out for yourself. The area should be clean and well maintained. There should be lifeguards that aren’t involved in teaching (since teachers can’t be looking at everyone at all times). There should be something that marks off areas of deeper water, and something to prevent children from getting into those deeper areas. There should be lifesaving and first aid equipment handy, and posted safety rules.

4.  The teachers should be trained. Again, this sounds obvious — but it’s not always the case. Parents should ask about how teachers are trained and evaluated, and whether it’s under the guidelines of an agency such as the Red Cross or the YMCA.

5.  The ratio of kids to teachers should be appropriate. Preferably, it should be as low as possible, especially for young children and new swimmers. In those cases, the teacher should be able to have all children within arm’s reach and be able to watch the whole group. As children gain skills the group can get a bit bigger, but there should never be more than the teacher can safely supervise.

6.  There should be a curriculum and a progression — and children should be placed based on their ability. In general, swim lessons progress from getting used to the water all the way to becoming proficient at different strokes. There should be a clear way that children are assessed, and a clear plan for moving them ahead in their skills.

7.  Parents should be able to watch for at least some portion. You should be able to see for yourself what is going on in the class. It’s not always useful or helpful for parents to be right there the whole time, as it can be distracting for children, but you should be able to watch at least the beginning and end of a lesson. Many pools have an observation window or deck.

8.  Flotation devices should be used thoughtfully. There is a lot of debate about the use of “bubbles” or other flotation devices to help children learn to swim. They can be very helpful with keeping children safe at the beginning and helping them learn proper positioning and stroke mechanics instead of swimming frantically to stay afloat, but if they are used, the lessons should be designed to gradually decrease any reliance on them.

9.  Being scared of the water isn’t a reason not to take, or to quit, swimming lessons. It’s common and normal to be afraid of the water, and some children are more afraid than others. While you don’t want to force a child to do something they are terrified of doing, giving up isn’t a good idea either. Start more gradually, with lots of positive reinforcement. The swim teacher should be willing to help.

10.  Just because a child can swim doesn’t mean he can’t drown. Children can get tired, hurt, trapped, snagged, or disoriented. Even strong swimmers can get into trouble. While swimming lessons help save lives, children should always, always be supervised around water, and should wear lifejackets for boating and other water sports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has helpful information on preventing drowning.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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