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Teaching Babies and Toddlers to Swim = Healthy Kids + Safe Kids

Teach your baby to swimSwimming lessons save lives. One of my most popular posts talked about what age you should allow your children to swim unsupervised, but at what age do you start them in swimming lessons and do swimming lessons really make a difference for young children?

A study proved that participation in formal swimming lessons cuts the risk of drowning for children ages 1-4 by 88%. Babies love the water and starting your kids in swimming lessons as infants will make them safer in the water, at a minimum it may keep them from panicking and buy you a precious 2 minutes that is the difference between life and a drowning death.

Starting children in the water early makes sense. Remember the first time you gave your new baby a bath? That rather concerned look on their face when you lowered them carefully into the water and then that flicker of recognition, ‘oh yes, water, I floated in my warm and comforting cocoon for the previous 9 months before you ejected me in a rather forceful manner’. I remember that my two quickly came to love bath time – the amazing splash of water that they were able to create just by moving their hands and feet. Such power! Such fun! Babies love the water and haven’t developed a paralyzing fear that can come with age, so it’s the best time to start them swimming early, in a positive and nurturing environment.

Need any more incentive? Swimming is proven to make children smarter, better physically coordinated as they mature and live longer. Plus swimming is amazing exercise as well, so kiss those worries of childhood obesity goodbye.

The bonus for parents? Click here for some great exercises that get you in shape and keep your baby safer their entire lives!

At What Age Are They “Old Enough” to Swim Unsupervised?

Editor’s Note: In honor of Pediatric Safety’s 4 year bloggiversary, we are publishing 4 of our  favorite posts from the past, one each Friday for four consecutive weeks. This – our 4th and final post – was originally published in April 2011 by Rebecca Wear Robinson, a member of our PedSafe Expert Team. Rebecca has dedicated her life to keeping kids safe around water and it is both an honor and a privilege to work with her. 
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When should you allow your child to go to a pool or beach without adult supervision? How old is ‘old enough’?

Old enough to swim alone?Stefanie (from PediatricSafety.net) alerted me to an interesting article last week that prompted the question – a 14-year old girl saved her 10-year old brother from drowning while the two played at a hotel pool, unsupervised. No charges were filed against the parent because 10 was deemed ‘old enough’ by the local police to be in the pool without adult supervision.

But there was no mention of either child’s swimming abilities. Could the 10-year old swim? Could he truly swim or just paddle a bit? How responsible was the younger brother? Was he a dare-devil or a cautious kid? How deep was the water? Was he tired or jet-lagged? Did he have any physical, emotional or mental issues that would have impaired his abilities or judgment? There are plenty of guidelines that tell us what age and weight our child has to be to change car seats. Laws dictate when our child can drive, drink and vote. But water safety is the great unknown – so many variables that are hard to measure.

So how do parents determine if a child is ‘old enough’ to be unsupervised at a pool or beach? Broward County in Florida is on the cutting edge of water safety and they recommend a minimum age of 12, though some experts believe it should be even higher.

Until national standards are developed, as a parent I’d set 12 as the minimum age (though I’m feeling better with 15), but I’d also look closely at all the other variables. Is your child a truly competent swimmer? (ask their swim teacher, don’t rely on your judgement or your child’s) Who else will be in the pool? Are they competent swimmers or could your child get in trouble with a panic-stricken friend who could pull someone under? How many children? More children = more adrenaline = more potential trouble. Is it a pool or open water? If it’s open water does your child have experience in that particular kind of open water? A river is different from a lake which is different from an ocean.

As parents, if we do our job right our child grow up to self-regulate their behavior and make responsible decisions, but it’s also our job to keep them safe until those skills are in place. Besides, volunteering for pool patrol is a pretty nice way to spend the summer!

I’d love to know your thoughts!

A Little Change & Prep Now, A Year of Safety for Your Family

Time for a changeGreetings to all and I hope everyone is having a great 2013 thus far. It’s hard to believe we are already in March, and with the month of March comes the beginning of spring and a time for change and preparation. As the saying around the firehouse goes, when the clocks change, its time to change the batteries in all of your detectors in your home, whether they be smoke or gas detectors. A properly functioning detector is key in the safety of you and your family in early trouble detection from smoke, flames and harmful gases in your home day and night. So please do not put this off, it only takes a few minutes and can make all the difference in the world and while you are at it, maybe you can make a fun family fire drill out of testing your new batteries in your detectors.

The preparation part of what I would like to talk about is the fact the spring is here and that means that summer is rapidly approaching. With summer comes the kids being home, at camp and almost assuredly being around water a lot more than the rest of the year. I cannot stress enough the importance of water safety and preparedness. Enrolling children in swimming lessons or teaching them yourself now is a great way to give them added protection for the summer months ahead. It is an all too common occurrence in the summer that children have near drowning or complete drowning events in pools or lakes and in many of these cases the child was not taught how to swim. Please contact a local instructor or organization in your area and arm your child with the ability to swim and in the mean time get some good fun quality time together.

Thank you and I wish you health and happiness.

I’m A Mom And I’m Pissed Off…(About Child Safety)

I’m a mom and I’m pissed off. Not a bit concerned. Not even angry. I’m pissed off as in, ‘I have a flame thrower and I’m not afraid to use it’ pissed off. Why? Because child safety is about as big a mom issue as you can get, and yet children keep drowning and no one is talking about it. We all know ‘stop, drop and roll’, but did you know that drowning kills more children in the U.S. every year than fire and gun accidents combined? If that didn’t get your attention, how about drowning kills as many 1-4 year olds as fire, transportation accidents and accidental suffocation/strangulation combined. When it comes to how to keep children safe, if we don’t start talking about water safety, we simply aren’t keeping our children safe.

It will take you two minutes to read this blog. It only takes two minutes to drown, two inches of water to drown, and in that time two children will drown, because one child drowns every minute. IF we had accurate statistics (and don’t get me started on that), I could state without qualifiers that drowning is as big a killer of children as malaria, one of the ‘top three’ killers according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But noooo, 59% of WHO members don’t even report drowning deaths. As a mom, can you imagine your child’s life being considered so insignificant that it doesn’t even count? That pisses me off.

Don’t worry though, I have enough statistics to (hopefully) make you as pissed off as I am.

  • Children under 5 have the highest drowning mortality rates worldwide *
  • Drowning is responsible for killing more children ages 1-4 in the U.S. than any other cause except birth defects. Two is the most dangerous year.
  • For every child that drowns in the U.S., another five almost drown and more than 50% of those children require further care. Permanent brain damage starts to occur within one minute.

Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14 in virtually every high-income country, but it is truly a global epidemic and a global mom issue.

  • 96% of drowning deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
  • Most children drown before age 4. 2 is the most dangerous year.
  • In Asia, where 2/3 of the world’s children live, drowning is responsible for almost one out of every five deaths from all causes for children ages 1-18.

As for the total number of children who drown every year? Officially it’s around 409,000, but we know that 59% of WHO countries don’t capture drowning deaths, so most experts estimate the number is at least double or triple that.

The great news? Drowning is preventable.

So what can you do?

First and foremost, teach your child about water safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to begin swimming lessons for kids as young as one. But don’t just stop at swim lessons, talk to them about water safety at all ages. Make it positive, repetitive and age-appropriate. You don’t want to scare them, you want to teach them, just like you teach your children to wash their hands and cross the street safely. SafeKids has some great advice.

Second, make your environment safe. The CDC has some great tips.

Third, get pissed off. Let’s make this a mom issue, because keeping children safe is what we do. If I’ve convinced you, just drop me a note at rebecca@rebeccawearrobinson.com or leave a comment. Let’s start talking about it.

Here’s some of the sites where I got my stats if you want to read more: CDC SwimSafe.org and WHO Fact Sheet

* (except in Canada and New Zealand where it’s adult males)

Supporting Dreams…and Safety: the parent behind every Olympian

Michael Phelps. Missy Franklin. Ryan Lochte. These superb Olympic athletes have captured the attention and admiration of both adults and children. The difference is that adults understand full well the incredibly rare cocktail of talent, determination and drive that it takes to become an Olympian, much less ‘most decorated Olympian in history’ that Michael Phelps was just awarded. We know that it is a rare few people who will achieve this level and that for most of us, watching the elite perform is the closest we will ever get. A joy and inspiration in itself, but drastically different from being a participant.

Children, on the other hand, watch the performances and think, ‘I can do that…..what sport should I compete in during the next Olympics?’  They act out the competitions – at their local pool, using the sofa as gymnastics equipment and the front yard for the final soccer match or running track – their own Olympics, every bit as real and exciting to them as the real thing. As a parent you have a choice, burst their bubble or encourage them.

Whether your child is a non-swimmer, still flailing, or a talented competitive swimmer, take advantage of the buzz and excitement of the Olympics to encourage your child to spend more time in the water – not just regular, year-round swimming lessons, but also supervised play. Your child will not only become stronger, better coordinated for all sports (proven), and do better in school (also proven), but also safer as they understand how to act safely around water.

Olympians have one thing in common – someone who believes in them and has supported them as they have pursued their dream. Watch here for one of the best reminders I’ve seen of the importance of supporting a child’s dreams and enjoy watching the rest of the Games with your children!

Inspire Your Own Olympic Swimmer

During the 2008 Summer Olympics I witnessed additional Olympic events every day at my local pool. Inspired by the swimmers, the children spent every afternoon recreating the the aquatic competition – complete with cheering, colorful commentary, and imaginary award ceremonies.

Now, are all those children going to be competing in the Olympic games some day? Of course not, most kids have no more hope of becoming the next Michael Phelps than they do becoming the next Michael Jordan, but that is the sheer beauty of children’s imagination. The only thing limiting them is the cranky adults who surround them, too wrapped up in the ‘should be’ to remember the joy of ‘could be’.

Beginning on July 27, your budding Olympian can be inspired by 34 swimming events, 6 diving events, the fierce competition of water polo and the beauty of synchronized swimming. Click here for a schedule. Take advantage of the global focus on aquatic competition and follow-up the excitement of watching the Olympics by taking your children to the pool frequently so that they can engage in their own Olympic games.

If your children need a bit of encouragement to jump-start their imaginations, here are a couple of suggestions: Invest in some weighted rings and have them dive for them (or reach down in shallow water for younger children); put an inflatable ring in the water, hand them some splash balls and see who can toss the most balls into the center of the ring; toss a volleyball in the water and get a game of water polo going; or have your dancer transfer her skills to the water.

Then stand back, watch them closely (because you always need to watch your children in and around water and stay within arm’s reach of your non-swimmers), cheer wildly, and let them dream of Olympic gold. Besides, you never know, you may have the next Ryan Lochte or Missy Franklin splashing in your own bathtub, just waiting to be inspired and find the sport that makes their heart sing.

Let the Games begin!

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