Teaching children to swim is an important tool for keeping kids safe around water this summer. A staggering 88% of kids who drown do so under adult supervision, so it’s important that your child has the confidence and skills to be an active member of their own water safety team. Make sure you’re familiar with these seven steps to raising a confident swimmer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent among young children aged 1 to 4 years, who are at greatest risk of drowning. The Iowa Department of Public Health estimates there were 27 unintentional fatal drownings in the state of Iowa in 2015, five of whom were children under the age of 18.

“All children deserve access to swimming lessons. Learning to swim not only teaches kids a basic life skill that’s as important as looking both ways when you cross the street, it also helps kids develop a love of swimming and encourages healthy living,” said Paul Brown, Aquatic Director, Helen G. Nassif YMCA. In many under-served communities, staying safe around water means keeping kids away from water, but water safety, knowing how to swim and being confident in the water are important life skills that need fostering in all children.

  1. Start young.

    Building up your child’s water exposure early may make swim lessons down the road less stressful for timid swimmers. Try a Parent Child class, for example, to get children from 6 months to 3 years old comfortable in the water and a pool environment.

  2. Hop in the pool

    Demonstrate your own comfort in the water so your child sees, when done properly, swimming is not scary.

  3. Don’t ever let them swim alone.

    Knowing you’re just an arms-length away can help your child feel more secure as they venture into unfamiliar territory. If they suddenly realize their feet aren’t touching the bottom anymore, having you right by their side will make the experience feel less dramatic (and of course, safer).

  4. Don’t be a helicopter parent.

    On the flip side, you don’t want to be glued at the hip and not allow your child the freedom to tackle challenges and conquer their fears. Give them just enough space, when appropriate, to see for themselves how great they’re getting at that doggy paddle.

  5. Teach them the pool rules for safety. 

    It’s hard to build confidence if you’ve just had a scary experience slipping on the pool deck or inhaling a mouthful of water. Make sure your child knows the basics of water safety, whether it’s through swim lessons or modeling proper behavior.

  6. Practice consistently.

    Going to the pool once or twice a year isn’t likely to nourish a strong connection. Try to make swimming a regular part of your family’s routine so that it becomes a natural activity in which your child can continue to grow steadily.

  7. Make it fun. 

    Water games, inflatable toys, friendly competitions — don’t forget to inject some joy into the whole process, especially for children who aren’t too crazy about the water. Balancing safety and skill building with healthy doses of fun are important if you want your child to build a lasting relationship with swimming.

Want a hand building your own confident swimmer? We still have spots open for the next session of swim lessons, which start April 17.

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