Being able to swim well is one of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed upon a child – especially in Australia. Fun, healthy water-based opportunities abound. Equally, a high level of swimming and water safety skills are necessary for full, enjoyable participation – as part of a safer framework.
For young children, the basic swimming and water safety skills include:
- Water familiarization, where small children explore and become comfortable in water environments, developing a respect for the water.
- Gaining confidence through various water activities which include and lead into “safe entries and exits *breath control *submersions *floating *propulsion with arms and legs *turning and *backfloating
- Developing the ‘strokes’ so that your child can efficiently cover much greater distances. The whole ‘learn to swim’ experience should be positive; free from fear of force, with a focus of skill acquisition and safety around aquatic environments.
As your child gets older, the chances are that they will be exposed to potentially hazardous water situations that will require them to be ‘stronger’ swimmers. We recommend that children are able to reasonably comfortably complete a 400m swim before they are deemed to be able to swim well. As this ability is developed, they should also be learning a variety of rescue skills.
Combined with learning the physical skills, the child is developing parallel water safety knowledge.
This ranges from knowing not to go near the pool unless with an adult through to swimming between the flags when at the beach.
Please note: no matter how well your child can swim, they are never safe around water. There is no such thing as ‘drown-proof’ or ‘water-safe’.
- Water temperature – a sudden immersion in cold water can result in ‘cold shock’ which may lead to deep gasping, panic and inhalation of water. Even a child who can swim, can drown in the first 2-3 minutes due to cold shock.
- Turbulent water – children who are used to swimming in still water can panic if the water is choppy or swirling. Panic can easily cause a child to forget all of their swimming skills and go under.
- Clothing – wet clothes are extremely heavy and can add an extra 20-25% of a child’s body weight. Clothed swimming practice in lessons is supported.
- No Goggles – even the simplest thing like falling in without goggles can lead to drowning – it is very easy for children to panic, and once this happens their survival rates of an accidental fall in decrease.
- Tiring – children who are swimming well one minute, can also get tired, panic and go under quite fast, son constant supervision of children who are swimming is essential.
While swimming lessons do not substitute for proper supervision are barriers, learning to swim can make a huge difference if your child accidentally falls in.
Did you know that the over use of floatation devices (e.g. inflatable arm bands) can give children a dangerous false sense of ability, taking away their respect for deep water and their respect for deep water and their self preservation. When the devices are removed, children often forget they are not wearing them, and leap into the water only to sink straight to the bottom. Although they may have a limited place in teaching and recreational settings, they must not be relied upon and are NOT a substitute for supervision. We recommend periods of ‘floatie-free’ time while swimming if you choose to use floatation devices.