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Why swim lessons are important for children of all ages

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Posted at 8:19 AM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 08:43:31-04

AVON, Ohio  — It is a sobering statistic, but an important topic: 10 school buses of children die due to unintentional drownings each year, according to The National Drowning Prevention Alliance. The organization says drowning is silent and can happen within 30 seconds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging families and caregivers to provide multiple layers of protection to keep children safe around water. There are lots of ways to prevent tragedy and they say it starts with swim lessons.

The AAP says it is time to get kids back in the water following many pandemic pool shutdowns so they can learn life-saving swimming and water safety skills.

"It is really important to keep your kids safe," said Celeste Hodous, about swim lessons, as she watched on while her two young daughters were in the water for lessons at the French Creek Family YMCA.

The AAP says drowning is the single leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children ages one to four, and one of the top causes of death for teens.

Most kids are ready for swim lessons by age four, but the AAP says swim lessons can be beneficial for children starting at age one; saying classes that include a parent are a comfortable way to introduce water safety.

At the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, they offer 'baby and me' classes and go up from there.

"It's a good, life-long skill to have," said Anna Arnold, a YMCA-certified swim coach and lifeguard at the French Creek Branch in Avon.

Arnold says for younger kids the biggest goal is to learn to float.

"That way if they jump in the water unexpectedly -- they can hold themselves above water," she said.

Arnold said working to build endurance is also important for young children. Then, as they grow teach them the different swim strokes.

"As soon as you can get them into these swim lessons you won't regret it," said Karina Goldberg. Like Hodous, her two little girls also take lessons at the Y.

Both moms were watching on as their girls, ages five to eight were in the water with Arnold, and say it's amazing how quickly they noticed results and the cautious confidence swim lessons have given them all.

"You'll see group settings in other public pools, kids can rough-house with each other, but the girls know to go underwater, and they'll swim away, or they know to keep their head above water and get to a corner," said Goldberg.

"And there's group, small group, or individual lessons," said Hodous. "Depending on what your child is comfortable with. So, that's nice too that there's options and they are very affordable here."

The cost of swim lessons varies widely, but many local parks and recreation departments, and the YMCA, offer free or low-cost lessons. The YMCA says you should not let cost be a barrier to getting your child into swim lessons and encourages you to call them, no matter your financial means.

The AAP says swim lessons are just one of several important layers of protection to help prevent drowning. Others include focused supervision when a child is in or near a pool or any body of water, fencing around a pool with a self-locking gate, removal of water hazards at home and adding toilet-seat locks, teaching adults and older kids CPR, wearing life jackets on the open water and boats, and avoiding alcohol and drugs when around water with children.