It’s vital our older children learn how to swim.
Baby and toddler swim classes have become very popular over the past 15 years, it’s now not uncommon for babies as early as a few days old to be introduced to the pool in formal and specialised baby swim classes. Here they learn the early lessons of getting to safety by holding onto the side of the pool and floating.
But something is very wrong in our society when drowning is the 2nd highest cause of death in the under 5’s and 1 in 3 children leave primary school without being able to swim at all, despite swimming being on the school curriculum. COVID19 restrictions have only added to the problem. Almost 45% of leisure centres and pools aren’t open yet and those that are open are struggling to provide swimming lessons, as so many swimming teachers haven’t been able to claim government assistance and have found paid work elsewhere. That leaves us with a growing number of children unable to swim, when we desperately need to shrink that number.
As summer progresses, we will again hear of children drowning in rivers and dams as they find ways to entertain themselves, especially in the hot weather and when restrictions are still in place that curtail children’s clubs and activities. With formal swimming lessons in short supply, it’s left to parents to teach their children this life saving skill, which is no easy feat given that over 14 million adults in the UK can’t swim either! But there is now a vast array of self-help video tutorials and online resources to help parents teach their children to swim, either from the poolside, or in the water with them.
In addition to these resources there are a host of products available for the beginner, from traditional arm bands and swim belts to the more technically advanced Swim Vest. Among these is the new Adjustable float Swim Vest from the well-known brand Splash About. This floatation jacket has been specifically designed with older beginners in mind, to help position them correctly in the water, so that the swimmer begins to understand about their own buoyancy and balance in the water. It is made to fit children from age 6 to 14 years old, with adjustable shoulder and waist straps for a perfect fit and an extra crotch strap to ensure the lightweight vest doesn’t ride up the child’s body when they are in the water.
It also has the added benefit of packing away flat it’s also easy to store, carry and travel with.
As with all new experiences learning to swim takes time and patience, there’s no set length of time it takes and no two children are ever the same, but practice, perseverance and confidence are key. Float vests and other buoyancy aids can all add to children feeling more secure in the water as they learn new skills, even getting their faces wet can be terrifying for many children and adults, starting off with the extra support in water, especially for older children, is proven to aid their confidence and help their anxiety.
Regardless of the floatation support parents decide to use, children must never be left unsupervised whilst wearing them, although of course it can be tempting, especially if they are happily playing with other swimmers. Float vests in particular are a great choice for older children, as they leave their arms and legs able to move freely, whilst their body is provided with the support they need to stay afloat. But it can be easy for children to become over confident and over reliant, these invaluable aids are there to help teach children to swim, not to replace that skill entirely.
It is doubtful that schools will find further time in their curriculums for increased pool time and even if they could, the current shortage of pools means regular school swimming lessons for the average school are way down the list of priorities, but swimming is a key life skill, like reading and writing, it’s a skill no child should be deprived of, yet sadly will be for the foreseeable future.
As adults and parents, we owe it to our children to keep them safe in the water and allow them to experience all the fun, exercise and accomplishment swimming can bring, as well as the knowledge to save their own life, should they ever need to.