As summer temperatures soar, there is no doubt most families’ summer plans will include the water. Whether your plans are a beach vacation, splashing around in your family pool or at the local water park, swimming is a popular way to beat the heat and get some great exercise! But, even though a day in the water sounds like simple, harmless fun, swimmers should be aware of potential dangers. Swimming lessons are an important first step to prevent drowning. Check out this list of swimming lessons available in the OKC metro.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects. Among those 1-14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
“Learning to swim is more than just another activity for your child,” said Meghan Bannen, general manager of Aqua-Tots in Oklahoma City. “It is an important life skill, one that could potentially save their life.”
Bryan Heathcock, aquatics director with the Mitch Park and Rankin YMCAs, agrees one of the best ways to reduce the danger of drowning is to help the child or children develop the skills and confidence needed to safely be in and around the water.
“Getting a child comfortable with being in and around water is a great step,” Heathcock said.
And when it comes to swimming, confidence comes from experience. Whether with a parent or instructor, time in the water practicing to swim and reviewing other water safety skills is very important. Children are amazing learners when given the opportunity, Heathcock said, and the more exposure they get to practicing skills in the water sets them up for success.
“I recommend swimming at least twice a week to help with your child’s muscle memory,” Bannen advised. “Swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent.”
As with all activities, repetition will help your children to improve and master important skills. Formal swimming lessons are available in Oklahoma City year-round for kids as young as infants at a variety of organizations. Finding the right one for your child takes a bit of research but will certainly be well worth the effort.
The first step is to make sure your child is in the appropriate class for his or her skill and maturity level. Bannen encourages parents to look at swim lessons like they do school. Learn whether the curriculum is age-appropriate and recognized by national standards, Bannen said, and think about if the environment is right for learning or full of distractions.
The level of training your child will receive is as important as the quality of the instruction.
“Look for classes offered by a reputable organization with a history of teaching swim lessons, with clear descriptions of what the child will learn,” Heathcock advised. “And ask about how you will receive feedback on your child’s progress.”
Each program is different, but most start with basic water safety, teach safe boundaries and help a child establish a comfort level while in and around the water with the ultimate goal of becoming fully independent swimmers as they master important skills. But, this progress takes time.
At Aqua-Tots, for example, lessons are available for kids as young as 4 months old. Bannen said it’s not uncommon for students who come in that young to be fully independent in the water by 3 years old. However, if kids come in later in life, it can take a little longer.
Another important thing to keep in mind when scheduling classes is timing. Look for a class that doesn’t conflict with your routine so you can ensure regular attendance.
“You want to teach your child new things when they are most attentive to learning,” said Chelsey Schuessler, aquatics assistant coordinator with The University of Oklahoma Murray Case Sells Swim Complex. “For example, right after nap time is not always ideal as many children don’t fully wake up directly after their nap.”
Schuessler recommended parents start lessons as soon as possible.
“Learning to swim is part of growing up,” she said. “Children learn faster and easier than adults do, so it’s always best to get started early.”
In addition to being a fun summer activity, swimming lessons teach kids how to help themselves in time of need and cultivating a passion for swimming, Scheussler said, can open a wide variety of other activities.
“Swimming is a terrific avenue for lifetime fitness and can also jump start other aquatic activities and interests,” Schuessler said. “You can become certified as a trained lifeguard as early as 15 years of age, and there are many competitive swim programs around the area.”
Heathcock recommended parents look into letting their kids join a community swim team as they gain skills in the water, as even independent swimmers benefit from extra practice.
“Once your child has a good grasp of the skills taught in group lessons, explore joining a swim team,” Heathcock said. “Whether it is your neighborhood team, the team at the Y or one of the club teams in town, a swim team is an excellent way to boost a child’s swimming skills.”
Both Bannen and Heathcock want parents to remember that no child is drown-proof.
“Adult supervision around water is paramount to water safety,” Heathcock cautioned.
Bannen recommends assigning a water watcher.
“Any time you are going to be around a body of water, designate a person to keep watch and then give that person relief after about 10 minutes,” Bannen said. “Water watchers need to refrain from adult beverages and all other activities at all times. They need to be solely focused on the water.”
If your child is confident in the water, then likely, parents will be more comfortable, making the day more enjoyable for everyone. Now if we only knew how long after the kids eat that they can get back in the water?
Ready for lessons? Here are swimming lessons offered in the OKC metro.