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Safe and Swimming

Keeping kids swimming all year long — even into the teens years — is the way to go with children for safety's sake.

From soccer to gymnastics, lots of sports help kids build skills and burn off energy. But one sport offers a unique boost to lifelong fitness: Swimming. Research shows that swimming lessons build skills that can translate into a lifetime of safe, effective exercise long after kids put away their cleats, ballet slippers and track shoes. And regular swimming builds core strength, breath control, and stamina that can enhance performance in other sports, according to Jenny and Chris McCuiston, parents and founders of Goldfish Swim School, a nationwide provider of swim lessons for children. Here’s how to help kids make a splash, safely, whether they’re in the tot pool or the deep end.

Safe and Swimming: EARLY YEARS 1 – 5

Pool Rules

Although a small study found that formal swim lessons can reduce drowning risk in children ages 1 to 4, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that preschool-age children should never be considered water safe. Before age 4, children don’t have the motor skills needed to swim independently and still need constant adult supervision in and around the water, even if they have some swimming ability. But swim lessons can benefit young kids. They can help build physical skills and swim lessons give kids a boost in cognitive and social development.

    At this age, swim lessons should focus on building basic skills, such as getting into and out of the water safely and going underwater comfortably. Parents can help by emphasizing water safety rules, say the McCuistons.

    “Rules are there for a reason, especially when it comes to rules for the pool. Walk, don’t run; make sure an adult is watching; no horseplay. Reviewing rules together as a family before you swim helps everyone enjoy the water,” Jenny McCuiston says.

Safe and Swimming: ELEMENTARY YEARS 6  – 12


Just Keep Swimming

By grade school, kids may have the strength, stamina and control needed to master more complex swimming skills, from freestyle breathing to flip turns. With regular swim lessons and practice, your school-aged child is likely more confident in and around the water and may even have passed a swim test or two.
    At this point, families may be tempted to quit lessons and devote time and energy to other pursuits — after all, the kids already know how to swim, right?
    Not so fast. There’s good reason to continue with lessons and practice into the tween and teen years.
   Every spring when parents bring kids for refresher lessons, they’re surprised at how much their child has forgotten since last year, swim teachers say. Just like any other physical activity, kids should keep swimming multiples time throughout the year, whether it be in lessons or free swim, so they don’t lose the muscle memory, endurance and stamina they’ve gained.

Safe and Swimming: TEEN YEARS 13  – 18

Life Guard

Summertime pools brim with opportunities for teens to socialize, exercise, and relax. But drowning risk doesn’t evaporate once kids outgrow the baby pool — it’s still the second leading cause of death for children 1 to 19, with teenage boys particularly at risk.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids learn to swim with periodic refresher lessons to help build and maintain swimming ability.

    Make sure your teens understand the risks of unsafe jumping and diving, which can include severe head injuries and paralysis. 

    Finally, when it comes to pool safety, trust, but verify: Ask about adult supervision before your teen or younger kid attends a pool party, and confirm that parents will be present during any swimming activity.


About the Author

Malia Jacobson

Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer specializing in sleep and health. She blogs about sleep and family life at thewellrestedfamily.com.