Let’s talk about the not-so-great numbers first: Last summer at least 163 children under the age of 15 fatally drowned in swimming pools or spas, according to media reports compiled by the USA Swimming Foundation. Nearly 70 percent of those victims were children under the age of five. During the same time period in 2016, 205 children under age 15 drowned in swimming pools or spas. Nearly 70 percent of those victims were children under age five. And now for the good news: Learning to swim can do more than save a child’s life. A four-year study by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research found that children who were taught to swim by age 5 experienced a number of cognitive and physical advantages over children who did not know how to swim. They were also more advanced in mathematics, counting, language, and following instructions. A recent national survey commissioned by Swimways, a pool and outdoor recreational products manufacturer, revealed that parents were largely unaware of the fact that teaching a child to swim had such benefits. “We believe that teaching a child to swim is one of the single most important things you can do for your child,” says Monica Jones, vice president of marketing at Swimways. “Just as you would teach them to read and write, we believe that every child deserves to be able to know how to swim…[its] not only important for their safety but [it] also opens up a lifetime of joy and discovery that only swimmers can experience.” Swimways celebrates National Learn To Swim Day, the third Saturday in the month of May, hosting an annual Learn to Swim Day event focusing on the importance of swim lessons.
If you haven’t signed your children up for swimming lessons yet, or perhaps you’d like to check out some adult classes for yourself, there’s still plenty of time to get water-ready for the summer. The Red Cross has classes available nationwide. You can also find lessons via The USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative, which aims to offer free or low-cost swim lessons to 1 million children this year.
KEEPING KIDS ENGAGED
But don’t go thinking that water safety simply begins and ends with a few swimming lessons. Elizabeth Beisel, two-time Olympic medalist and USA Swimming Foundation ambassador, offers up the following tips to keep kids safe and happy in the water:
- Once your children have learned to swim, create consistent practice time to enhance their skills and increase their confidence.
- Consider using water toys, pool floats, pool games and swim training gear to make learning to swim fun
- Swimming uses a ton of energy. Remember to take breaks and keep kids hydrated to maintain their level of confidence in the water.