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Is This the Summer for Swimming Lessons?

Is This the Summer for Swimming Lessons?

When is the right time to take the plunge and teach your child to swim?


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While we've all seen photos and video of chubby babies swimming in aquamarine pools, looking for all the world like adorable cherubs, these little ones are not learning to swim. Instead, they are learning to enjoy the water.

Babies, with their high percentage of body fat, pretty much float, which leads some parents to believe they can swim. Don't be fooled. Babies and toddlers don't mix with pools and lakes unless they are extremely well supervised.

At What Age Should a Child Learn to Swim?
Experts agree that until children reach the age of four, they are not ready to learn to swim. By then, their muscle development and emotional age allow them to master the basics so that they can, as the years go by, turn into safe, responsible swimmers.

You may not be in the position to give your child swimming lessons until he is six or seven, but if at all possible don't wait much longer. Learning to swim is a safety issue and the older someone waits to master swimming, the more difficult it becomes.

Learning to swim is also fun and kids who are comfortable in the water can look forward to hours of good times in pools, lakes, and oceans. Strong swimmers are good candidates for other water sports, too, such as water skiing, boating, and sailing.

Competitive swimming is great for youngsters, and many continue the sport through high school and college. While you need access to a pool with a swim program, the sport frequently is year around and does not involve a lot of expensive equipment.

Are Infant and Toddler Aquatic Programs Helpful?
Parents who sign up for aquatic programs for their babies should know that these are not swimming lessons. But they can be loads of fun!

During the sessions, the tots need to be accompanied at all time by an adult. The time spent in the pool will do a lot to teach your baby to enjoy the water and ready her for lessons when she turns four.

Well-run programs for babies and toddlers never encourage parents to force their kids to submerge their faces in the water or do anything that frightens them. Instead, the program should be a pleasure for both parent and child, with a lot of games, singing, and gentle splashing.

Because a child completes an aquatic course does not mean he is safe around the water. He still needs close adult supervision around any body of water -- even inflatable baby pools and bathtubs.

Despite some belief to the contrary, these programs do not guarantee your child will learn to swim more quickly or better than a child who does not partake. But, an aquatic program may mean your child is less fearful of the water than a youngster with no experience in pools or lakes.

Additionally, aquatic programs should teach parents valuable safety practices. Drowning is the second most common cause of infant and toddler death in the country -- and in Florida, Arizona, and California and other warm-weather regions, it is the number-one cause.

Safety First
Parents who plan to take their little ones swimming should learn CPR and basic first aid. A youngster can inhale water in just minutes -- the time it takes for you to answer the telephone, for instance. All adults who supervise kids in the water should be vigilant. When it comes to children who are very young or who don't swim, this means "an arm's length" away -- no farther!

Backyard pools are fun but they are also dangerous. Build a fence around the pool and install a gate with a self-closing latch. This latch should be too high for youngsters to reach. No matter how tired you are or how much they insist, never let kids swim without adult supervision. And no one should ever swim alone.

Clear toys from the pool so that little ones are not tempted to reach for them. String a float line across the pool to demark the shallow and deep ends. Make sure your kids know what part of the pool they can use.

Don't let babies and toddlers in the water if they have a cold or other communicable disease. Try to prevent them from swallowing too much water, which can cause water intoxication.

The moment you notice children shivering or their lips looking blue, get them out of the water, dry them off, and let them warm up in the sun before they return to the pool. This prevents hypothermia.

Finally, when kids swim outdoors, make sure they wear plenty of sun block. Re-apply after they swim, regardless of the manufacturer's claims. And don't believe that they are protected from the sun when they are submerged in water.

Recognizing the potential danger of water should not diminish the fun of summer swimming. Instead, it should enhance the experience by making it a safe one.

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