This is my first post on something topical, but I have been so saddened and mortified by the recent increase in child drownings that I wanted to say something. Anything. A tribute to those beautiful, tiny lives lost. And to remind the rest of us to remain vigilant in keeping our bubs safe in and around the water.
In New South Wales (Australia), during the Christmas/New Year period alone there have been 18 drownings, approximately a quarter of them children under the age of 14. These incidents have occurred in a variety of settings, including beaches, pools and even a front yard pond. These statistics are as horrifying as they are tragic, and the various settings provide a shocking realisation that these dangers are ever present.
Now this post may seem completely obvious – even my husband initially kind of said “well, duh!”. But as a teacher, I am constantly reminding my students of the rules of the classroom, even if they are repeated dozens of times. How many times do you have a child do something you’ve told them not to do? Or how many times do we make a mistake, which we know is stupid or
plain wrong, but we make it anyway? These drowning events often occur as a tragic mistake – looking away for a brief second; assuming your child is being supervised by someone else; not realising there is a body of water nearby that could harm your child; you and/or your child being unaware of the appropriate water safety tips to keep them safe. These mistakes can turn into horrifying accidents, so as parents it is our responsibility to KEEP REMINDING ourselves of the obvious (or seemingly obvious) in the hopes of avoiding making the same mistakes.
As a new mum, the overwhelming feeling of responsibility hit the moment I first held our son in my arms. His tiny hands and little beady eyes looked at me (or more likely at the blank nothingness his little pupils could process at the time) and I knew I had to protect him to the best of my ability. We bought a monitor for his bassinet WHILE he was sleeping in our room (in case he stopped breathing and we didn’t notice!); we packed everything (including the kitchen sink?!) in case he needed extra jackets, blankets, onesies, play mats or toys; I was super anxious about moving him into his room by himself because we couldn’t keep an eye on him.
And now we’ve started swimming lessons with him. We’ve had numerous comments such as “that’s a bit young isn’t it?” or “wow, so early!”. Many are skeptical of the benefits of introducing a baby to water that early, however I knew from early on that I wanted our son to be familiar, comfortable, and safe around water. You see, I don’t recall having many swimming lessons until I was in school. I’ve never been a confident swimmer. I don’t feel safe around large bodies of water. And I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted my son to have. Now add to that the recent spate of child drownings, and I’m more adamant than ever to get my son well-aquainted with the water.
What advice do swim coaches offer
I decided I wanted to chat to an ‘expert’ to see what their stance on baby/child water exposure was, so I chatted with swim coaches Chris and Angela from ACM Swimming. Here is what they had to say in relation to this topic:
Swimming is a life skill, something that we all should be confident with, especially with all the beautiful beaches around us. This summer we have seen the largest number of drowning deaths in NSW, with 18 incidents occurring during the Christmas and New Year period. It is absolutely vital for kids to be introduced to the water and taught basic water safety skills.
Some tips from ACM Swimming to help familiarise babies and toddlers to water:
– Babies as young as 3 months can be introduced to the water;
– Use floating toys and sing songs as much as possible to engage them;
– Pour small amounts of water into their head and face to get them used to getting wet;
– Always hold onto them while facing them, both arms stretched out and holding their underarms. Guide them through the water for movement. You can also face the same direction as your baby by stand at their waist holding onto their underarms to introduce movement while you walk;
– When they are 2-3 years old, enrol them into swimming lessons as soon as possible so that they can learn vital water safety and swimming skills.
Swimming is fun! It is a great exercise and can be enjoyed with friends. Swimming lessons, along with adult supervision can save lives. Remember, always be vigilant around water, it only takes a few seconds for any tragedy to occur.
Kids Alive – Do the Five!
If all else fails, you can remember the ‘Kids Alive – Do the Five’ song and teach it to your kids, which they practised at our son’s swim school at the end of last year:
- Fence the Pool;
- Shut the gate;
- Teach your kids to swim, it’s great;
- Supervise – watch your mate;
- And learn how to resucitate!
I would love to hear other parents’ experiences of babies and children around water safety. Have you put your young baby/kids into swimming lessons? Have you had any experiences that others could learn from? Please share your stories
in the comments below!
If you’d like to book your child in for private or group swimming lessons, ACM offer a MOBILE service in order to meet your needs. For more information, visit their website HERE or their Facebook page HERE.