Swim Lessons Save Lives

My 3-year-old son was splashing in the shallow part of the community pool and going down the slide, as he had done all afternoon. I looked over at Ryan every minute or so to make sure he was OK. As I chatted with another mom, I did another routine glance, expecting to see my happy boy splashing and sliding. But I didn’t. I scanned the pool, and no Ryan. I looked at the snack area, and no Ryan. My eyes returned to the pool and zeroed in on my blondish boy in bright blue, bobbing up, bobbing down, bobbing up, bobbing down, down, down into the water…

From the BabyCenter Blog, “In a blink, my son began to drown.”

Fortunately, Ryan’s mom and the pool’s lifeguard rescued Ryan just in time. However, shortly after the drowning incident, his mom enrolled Ryan at Little Fishes Swim School, where he is still a student today. His confidence, abilities and love of the water grow with each lesson. In fact, next year, Ryan told his mom that he wants to be on a neighborhood swim team (yes, there are swim teams for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students).

Unfortunately, many parents–the most loving of parents with the best intentions–do not enroll their children in swim classes, thereby depriving children of learning an important life-saving skill. For years the myth lingered that swim lessons for babies and toddlers are unnecessary or even dangerous. Until a couple of years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against early swim lessons. But that myth has been busted. In 2009, a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found:

  • Providing very young children with swimming lessons appears to have a protective effect against drowning;
  • Infant and toddler swim lessons do not increase children’s risk of drowning;
  • Formal swimming lessons for preschoolers reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.
Ryan’s mom echoes the sentiments of other moms when she says that had she known that early swim lessons protect against drowning, she would have enrolled her kids when they were 2 months old. “I always believed the myth,” Ryan’s mom said. “I always thought the only time a baby or a toddler should be near the water was for a bath.” Three reasons for babies to begin swim lessons.

Here at Little Fishes Swim School, we understand the fears parents may have about their children drowning. However, early swim lessons help children develop a healthy respect and love for the water. Babies are born with certain reflexes that assist in swimming. By encouraging and practicing, parents can help their babies transfer these natural reflexes into coordinated swimming. Due to infants’ limited experience with gravity and control of their movements, the buoyancy of water feels natural, a memory of the fluid environment in the womb. They are also comfortable and relaxed on their back, so they can learn to float with minimal or no support. Most important, babies are not born with a fear of the water. It is learned, and the earlier they become comfortable in and under water, they will avoid the possibility of developing water phobias or endure the emotional stress of overcoming fears. When parents nurture their baby’s natural love of water, babies grow up to be safer in the water and learn to swim earlier, therefore, significantly decreasing drowning risk.

Indeed, studies have shown that children who know how to submerge are safer in and around water. They are more likely to stay calm and find a way out should they fall in the water. However, it is still crucial for to have an adult supervise children engaging in water play, whether in a bathtub, pool or at a beach or lake.

Although Ryan is still learning various swim techniques, he is more comfortable in water and can use his arms and kicks to swim to the surface. Not only is Ryan learning a life-saving, lifelong skill but his mother says he’s having fun and becoming more confident both in and out of the water. “He loves his time swimming at Little Fishes,” his mom says. “And I love that his lessons can literally save his life.”