As spring and summer approach, Kingswim is reminding parents on the dangers of taking a swim break and that a few lessons here and there do not guarantee your child’s ability and safety around water.
Australia’s leading parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson says parents should never underestimate the importance of starting swimming lessons early and learning how to swim properly.
“As parents we hold our children’s safety above all things. With warmer weather fast approaching it’s important that our children are equipped with the necessary tools to be confident in the water. Having a child who knows how to swim means more than knowing the basics,” he says.
“Children should be able to stay afloat and swim unaided for a significant distance just in case they get into strife.
“It’s this level of ‘knowing how to swim’ that gives your child the best chance at getting themselves out of trouble in the water. Like anything, learning this skill requires consistency to build both confidence and muscle memory.
“I urge parents not to become complacent once children learn the basics of floating or treading water, it’s simply not enough.”
Kingswim has noticed a particular tendency for parents to begin Baby Play, a less structured introduction to water for infants, yet not continue with the transition into structured and independent classes – where children learn strokes and survival skills.
Kingswim Area Manager Anne Brown says while starting early is key, so too is consistency and many families are taking a long break between this early introduction and returning to lessons.
“While the transition from the relaxed atmosphere of Baby Play into independent lessons can seem daunting for parents and children alike, sticking with lessons and continuing the swim journey is the best and fastest way to learn to swim,” she says.
“Last summer proved how important knowing how to swim and water safety is. In addition to far too many fatal drownings, statistics show for every toddler who drowns another 10 are hospitalised, some left with permanent disabilities.
“Learning to swim is a long-time commitment and it’s our goal for all our swimmers to reach graduate level, meaning they can freestyle one kilometre nonstop, are skilled for life, don’t need any further lessons, and can now enjoy all that life in and around the water has to offer.”
Despite the incredible benefits of children starting early and graduating from swim lessons, Kingswim has found many children are not reaching this milestone.
Anne says: “Taking a break from swimming lessons before children have graduated can lead to children returning to square one; losing skills previously mastered, losing confidence and their feel for the water. To develop their ability, children need constant exposure to the water, which is why it’s so important to start early and stick with it.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure children, from infants to teenagers, have a healthy respect in and around water environments, and are confident and skilled enough to have the best chance at getting themselves out of trouble. It’s important children learn the relevant, lifesaving skills at every age, from an infant learning to do a turnaround swim after an accidental fall into the water, to a fully graduated swimmer able to freestyle one kilometre.
“Learning to swim is a big achievement, and one that doesn’t happen overnight or with one term of lessons here and there. Every child is different but the key to learning is practice and consistency.”
Reports by Royal Lifesaving found that only 50% of 11 and 12-year-old children could achieve the ‘Benchmark’ in freestyle, backstroke, survival backstroke and breaststroke1.
To ensure competency and safety around water Kingswim’s program includes 12 levels, by the end of which swimmers graduate being able to freestyle 1,000 metres nonstop – 20 times the national benchmark of 50 metres.
Dr Justin Coulson’s tips to ease the transition from Baby Play to lessons and keep kids interested:
While bub may have enjoyed their initial introduction to the water, the 3-4 age bracket can be a sensitive and difficult one. Without consistent exposure to the water children can develop a fear, so it’s important not to lose momentum and build up their confidence with continual lessons.
- If your child is just starting out (or starting over), go slow. Focus on enjoyment, comfort, and developing a routine that feels safe and predicatable to them. Kingswim’s Baby Play classes is a great start. It focuses on water familiarisation and helps babies feel comfortable in the water before starting lessons. Classes run for 45 minutes, however parents can come and go as they please, so you can start with a short introduction. The class is the only one on at that time to ensure minimal noise for baby’s peaceful water play.
- Make it fun. One way to get children comfortable in the water and excited about their lessons is seeing their parent’s positive attitude and enthusiasm for swimming. Be encouraging about progress, no matter how small.
- Acknowledge your child for being brave. If they’re ‘not’ being brave, talk to them each night about what brave things they’ve done that day. Ask them to talk about how it felt to be brave. Eventually they’ll feel brave enough to get back into the pool.
Kingswim has taught more than 14 million swim lessons to Aussie kids over the last 30 years. Kingswim offers programs for babies from 12 weeks of age, right through to graduate level swimmers at its 20 centres across the country. For more information on Kingswim programs and the benefits of year-round swimming please visit www.kingswim.com.au
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