Safe Swimming For Children
Swimming is a valuable life-skill that should be taught as soon as possible. However, it’s also potentially dangerous. According to RoSPA, around 40 under-15s die every year by drowning. Here’s a guide to swimming safety for children and parents.
Taking Babies SwimmingA fear of water can be unhealthy, so it’s a good idea to introduce your baby to water and pools as soon as possible. Start with the bath at home and, at the age of 6 months, your baby can progress to a public pool. Look for special baby sessions at your local pool, or hunt down leisure centres with special areas for babies and toddlers. The Amateur Swimming Association (UK) holds a register of baby-friendly pools. If you’re unsure whether the pool is suitable, just ask.
Before taking your baby swimming for the first time, make sure she or he has completed courses of vaccinations, and don’t take your baby to a pool if he or she has a cold or other viral infection. Dress your baby in a waterproof swimming nappy and introduce him or her to swimming very gradually, starting with short sessions.
Supervising Children at the PoolMost pools require that all children under the age of 12 be supervised by a swimming adult. If you are taking young children swimming, there are a few important rules to remember. Firstly, make sure that you all use the showers before going in the pool; anyone with long hair or foot problems should wear a swimming cap or sock. If you are bringing flotation devices or toys to the pool, make sure they are British Standard accredited and that they do not cause danger to other swimmers.
The golden rule is constant supervision: children can drown ever so quickly when your back is turned. Make sure that the children know where the pool gets deeper and make sure they know where they can and can’t swim. Most pools have special diving areas – nobody should dive in anywhere other than those.
If you have an outdoor pool, vigilance is particularly important. It’s a good idea to fence the pool off, with a gate and a childproof latch. If you have children around, make sure someone keeps an eye on the pool at all times – and if a child goes missing, look in the pool first. Those few minutes spent searching elsewhere could be fatal.
Learning to SwimYou can find swimming courses – often free – all over the country. Contact your local council to find out where to go. If you’d like to teach your child yourself, look online for a lesson guide. There’s a recommended order in which to teach your child basic skills (from blowing bubbles to breathing and kicking, and finally expanding the range of strokes). For further development, the Amateur Swimming Association also runs lifesaving courses at many leisure centres across the country.
Flotation AidsYoung children will benefit from flotation devices – firstly to keep them afloat while they gain confidence in the water, and later to help with basic swimming. Babies can use swim seats or rings, although these are not a substitute for supervision. Later they can progress to swim vests and finally armbands.
If you are going on holiday or your child needs a confidence-boost, you can also buy swimming jackets – which are vests or swimsuits with built-in inflatable panels. These are designed for new swimmers and, like bicycle safety wheels, are invaluable for providing support without hindering the child’s eagerness.