Long summer days with the sun shining makes water a very attractive place to go. Whether it’s dipping in a pool, running into the sea or splashing about in a river, water can provide hours of fun and entertainment for children but ugh levels of anxiety for parents.
But, with drowning the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths, parents need to think carefully about how to help navigate their children to becoming safe and secure in and around water.
Most of us wont know that there are an estimated 360,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide. The World Health Organisation’s “Global report on drowning” (2014) shows that age is one of the major risk factors for drowning. This relationship is often associated with a lapse in supervision. Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years at the stages when children are not competent or capable swimmers. This highlights very clearly that it is never too early to start introducing children to water.
There are, of course, many actions that can prevent drowning including controlling access to water hazards, or removing water hazards entirely, but the latter isn’t entirely realistic as around every corner we can find hazards including simply things like puddles. Therefore, teaching children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is a more effective measure and this summer’s wonderful Mediterranean weather has put swimming on the top of everyone’s wish list. Giving children the opportunity to learn to become not only confident but also capable in the water is truly a life saving skill that can help ensure they are safe and we can be less worried!
And, the journey to becoming a confident swimmer can start at home from a very early stage with fun and games in the bath or shower with children feeling secure having their hair washed, submerging their faces in the water and blowing bubbles. Apple bobbing with a pair of goggles can also be very effective and fun too! Once a child has become totally happy with their faces down in the water then the next part of their swimming path can begin developing strong leg kicks followed by arm movements and finally establishing controlled breathing technique. For some these steps can be faster than others and the most important thing is to keep things fun and to persevere in order to reach the end goal of a confident swimmer and calm parents.
Katie Tufnell is the co-founder and owner of School of Dolphins. Operating since January 2009 from her home in Bighton, Hampshire, the swim school teaches babies, toddlers, pre and primary school aged children and has supported in excess of 2,000 children achieve strong swimming abilities. Katie is an ASA Level 2 instructor.