“Drowning prevention is a family activity”
The good news: Since 1985, there has been a decrease in the number of children drownings. The bad news: Drowning remains the leading cause of injury death for children under 4 and is the second leading cause of death for children under 18.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a revised policy statement because of new information and research regarding who is at risk, water competency (water-safety knowledge and attitudes, basic swim skills, and response to a swimmer in trouble), when children are in and around water (the need for close, constant, attentive, and capable adult supervision and life jacket use in children and adults, the importance of physical barriers to prevent drowning, and the drowning chain of survival and importance of bystander CPR.
Their policy focuses on the importance of layers of prevention to help keep our families safe. The first and best way to keep your children safe ALWAYS is 100% adult supervision when near water. This means having an adult paying close attention to the children in the water and being within arm’s reach when necessary. In addition, the use of lifejackets, following rules, barriers, and lessons are all essential components needed to keep your children safe.
The AAP offers great advice for parents looking for swim lessons. Look for classes and instructors that follow guidelines focused not just on swim stroke techniques, but broader water survival competency skills. All children should learn how to get back to the surface from under water, propel themselves at least 25 yards, and get out of the water, for example. Instructors should evaluate children’s progress and give ongoing feedback on their skill levels. In addition, For children of all ages, look for programs that: Have experienced, qualified instructors; teach good safety habits in, on, and near water; teach what to do if they end up in the water unexpectedly; let you watch a class first to see first-hand if it is right for your child; and require multiple sessions. In addition, for children under age 4, look for programs that: Provide an age-appropriate atmosphere; include “touch supervision;” and ensure water quality and temperature.
There is insufficient information available for the AAP to recommend children under the age of 1 to take formal swim lessons. The information and studies do, however see a benefit for infants in swim lessons that focus on water acclimation, and water safety education for parents. There are also several studies available that have concluded swim lessons for infants have health, cognitive, and physical benefits, not related to water safety. Medical News Today explains a few of these benefits.
What is clear, from all the information available, world-wide, Children over the age of 1 benefit greatly from swim lessons. Children who take quality lessons are far less likely to drown, show physical, cognitive, and social benefits, and it is recommended that ALL CHILDREN learn to swim. The AAP recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning that can begin for many children starting at age 1. The studies do not show that lessons will help prevent drowning in children less than 1, but there are other benefits to bringing your babies to parent/child classes.
While we think this is a step in the right direction, we believe the earlier the better, our Tadpole, Swimboree and Seahorse classes, for ages 3 months to 3 years are designed to ease infants and toddlers into water survival.
Please, remember there are layers of protection to prevent drowning. You can find the strategies of the AAP here.