When you think about water safety, what comes to mind? You may run through the list of precautions you take to keep your kids safe around the water: swimming with adult supervision, not running on slippery surfaces, diving only in the deep end, always wearing life jackets on boats.
And what do you picture when you think about learning to swim? You might recall your children’s early swim lessons – or even your own: getting comfortable with full immersion, practicing your back and front float, playing games and doing drills with various strokes.
You may have different associations with each, but water safety and learning to swim are innately intertwined. Understanding how to be safe in the water is a life skill, and the best way to foster it is to learn how to swim well.
At Tom Dolan Swim School, water safety is embedded in our curriculum from the very beginning. In our Waterbabies classes, we start to build a foundation of water comfort and acclimation with infants as young as 3 months old. From there, we gradually add new concepts and skills, building kids’ confidence as swimmers and tying every lesson back to water safety.
Basic water competency can save lives – for example, if a child learns how to roll onto their back, float and call for help. But our lessons go far beyond simply teaching emergency skills. We teach kids how to swim properly so when they need it, their muscle memory will kick in and help them get to safety.
Here is a sample of the water safety curriculum we integrate into our classes:
- Enter and exit the pool properly: Get into the pool feet first, sitting on the edge and turning around to enter on your tummy. Exit by pulling yourself up on the edge of the pool using our “hand, hand, elbow, elbow” technique. Note that we do not allow our students to use ladders or any other aid to exit the pool. This teaches them to assist themselves and not become reliant on a device which may not be available during an emergency.
- Turn around and go back in the direction you came from: If you find yourself in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation (accidentally going into the deep end, for instance), turn around and make your way back to where you were before. Swim back to hold onto the side of the pool. This concept is taught as early as Waterbabies class!
- Control and slow down your breathing: When you are feeling nervous or cold, your breathing can speed up – and make you feel even more anxious. Mentally prepare yourself before getting in the water by taking several slow, deep breaths. And practice controlling your breathing when you are in the water as well.
- Keep your body relaxed: The more tense your body is, the less buoyant it becomes. A relaxed body makes you a better swimmer by engaging your brain and muscles thus allowing for muscle memory.If you notice you are tightening up, take a deep breath and relax your body, starting at the top of your head, down through your shoulders, arms, torso and legs. This will get easier the more you practice.
Learn more about our school’s Swim Thru Life philosophy.