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Water Safety and Teaching Your Child How to Swim

Teaching a child to swim
Olive learning how to swim with Ms. Liz from Sarasota Swimming Lessons.

It’s that time of the year when the temperature is getting up there and nothing feels better than jumping into the Gulf of Mexico or your backyard pool. I have a three-year-old daughter, Olive, and since she started crawling, being around the water has been a little stressful as a parent. She loves the water and has no fear. She just wants to be in the pool, doing what the “big kids” are doing. We tried to take all of the safety precautions – all of our family members who have pools put up safety gates and any time we were around water, Olive would wear her “swimmies.” Last spring, when Olive was two, she and I did six weeks of parent-child swimming lessons at Little Otter Swim School. It was fun, but mostly focused on getting kids familiar with the water by playing games like “Ring Around the Rosy” and other songs and games. They worked on “blowing bubbles” and also focused on showing the parent how to work with the child. Olive really enjoyed it, but she was not quite “swimming.” I worked with her throughout the summer but as the weather and pools got colder, many of her swimming skills went bye-bye.
This summer, my family has many “water” vacations planned, so my husband and I thought we have to make an extreme effort to teach our child how to swim. If she can swim, she can have much more fun around the water and we can feel more relaxed. So, what swim lessons should we chose?
Many of our friends used the ISR program – Infant Swimming Self Rescue.  Their motto is “not one more child drowns.” ISR teaches children how to flip over to their back and float. In the final exam, the child swims with clothes and shoes on to simulate a drowning accident. Children can start this program at 6 months. Some people consider this method a little traumatic, but my niece used this method and she was swimming by age two, after six weeks of 10-minute classes. She loves the water and is now on the swim team at the Y. Pretty impressive!
Although the ISR program certainly works, for Olive, we chose the Red Cross Preschool Aquatics program taught by Liz Noonan with Sarasota Swimming Lessons. She teaches private or group lessons at her pool or yours. Ms. Liz came to our pool for four days a week for two weeks and did thirty-minute lessons. Each lesson started with a “safety lesson” where Liz would show Olive different posters and talk about finding the lifeguard and how important it is to make sure that there’s always an adult around when you’re around the water. Liz is great with kids;  Olive loved working with her and was eager to try whatever swimming activities Ms. Liz suggested. Olive was quickly swimming under water by using her “superman arms” and “ice cream scoop” hands (Ms. Liz’s fun and kid-friendly names for swimming techniques). Olive also learned how to paddle with “Rocco arms” (our dog) and “choo choo” around the edge of the pool to reach the steps. For her exit exam, she was able to swim across the pool and flip over on her back into a float and swim back to the steps. She’s now swimming like a fishy! Thank you, Ms. Liz!  But even though Olive can technically swim, she still needs help lifting her head up to take a breath when swimming longer lengths. So, we still need to work with her and be right there with her when she’s practicing her new skills.  It is a good reminder that when kids are around water, adult supervision and assistance is always necessary.
We’re off to Homosassa again this weekend, so we’re looking forward to practicing and reinforcing Olive’s newly-learned swimming techniques.  Please share any tips you have on teaching a pre-schooler how to swim or share what form of swimming lessons you chose to teach your child how to swim.