Just Keep Swimming
Shanna Cox

Did you know that drowning is the #1 cause of accidental childhood death for kids 1-4 years old? Did you know that drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental childhood death for kids 1-14 years old? If these statistics scare you, they should. Drowning is a serious problem in our community. We would never consider bringing our baby for a ride without a carseat, or letting our toddler play with fire, yet drowning takes more children’s lives than car accidents or fires, suffocation, and any other scary thing that we work hard to prevent every day. Swimming lessons are often overlooked as an essential way to keep our babies and children safe and I want to change that.

My name is Kaci McGuire and Safe Swim is a culmination of all my professional swimming and drowning prevention instruction over the past 17+ years. My business Safe Swim teaches babies from 2 months old to adults how to avoid drowning, enjoy the water, swim as a sport and try new aquatic activities. We also offer water safety training for schools, churches, camps and organizations and lifeguard training, and a lot of other aquatic activities.

Kaci McGuire
Kaci McGuire

What I love about Safe Swim and what is unique about our program is that our goal is to make swim instruction accessible. For generations, swimming has been an exclusive sport that not all families have had the chance to participate in. At Safe Swim inclusivity is one of our core values and our goal is to bring swim instruction to families who haven’t had access to high quality aquatic programming, including families with low incomes, families with limited English proficiency, families with multiple generations who can’t swim, swimmers with exceptionalities, babies, teens and adults. I love hearing people sigh with relief when they find that they can afford to enroll all 4 of their kids, or someone traveling from across the river because we can serve them in their preferred language, or that they finally found a space that will work with their child with special needs, or an adult that has been putting off lessons for decades feels comfortable joining us. What’s got me really excited right now is our new lifeguarding program which will be a school to pool pipeline, where we take on youth who can’t swim and teach them not only how to swim but the skills they need to be lifeguards. We hope to help reopen NORD pools by creating and training more lifeguards from our communities. If you need year round swim lessons for any age, know someone who wants to be a lifeguard, or are interested in any other aquatic activities, reach out to us. We swim all year long from infant to adult, speak Spanish and Portuguese, and you can call, text, whatsapp, Facebook message or DM us on Instagram. You can call, text or contact us on the phone or Whatsapp at (504) 645-0749, email us at info@safeswimkids.com, message us on Facebook or DM us on Instagram.

Whether you swim with Safe Swim or another local school or instructor, please get your babies in swim lessons. Before you go, I’m going to share some essential things to know about learning to swim. If you have any other questions or need any advice about swim lessons, swim instruction, or anything in the aquatic world, reach out to our team!

Safe Swim

1) Start as soon as possible. We start our babies at 2 months old at Safe Swim. Remember that drowning is the most common way for 1-4 year olds to die accidentally. I hear parents say things like, “maybe next year, she’s just so young” or “he’s only 2..” The truth is, drowning does not wait for your child to grow up. You need to put your child in lessons precisely because they are very young, because this is when they are most likely to drown. Did you ever turn around for 5 seconds to find your baby, toddler or preschooler in your makeup, or covered in baby powder, or drawing on the walls, or eating piles of snacks? It takes 20 seconds to drown, and just as quickly as you update your feed your child can find the water without you. You might think, “Hey, we don’t have a pool.. We’re okay for now,” but think again. We are surrounded by water. It can be a bucket, a bathtub, a pool, lake, river, canal, retention pond, bayou. Shoot, we all know that it floods when it rains too hard. You never know when you will find yourself near the water. Parties, holidays, vacations and social events are notorious for drownings. The truth is that you can’t prevent your child from being around the water 100% of the time. But what you can do is teach them how to save themselves if they fall in.

2.) As parents we are proud and happy to put our kids in activities that stimulate their bodies and minds, fill them with joy and challenge them to grow. We might think of swimming as just another activity to pencil in the schedule, but it’s not. Knowing how to swim is a safety skill before a recreational one. While swimming is incredible for brain development, cognitive skills, balance, aerobic and anaerobic training, coordination, muscle building, flexibility, core strength, conditioning and more, the life saving component is where swimming really becomes essential. Swimming lessons are not just a fun summer activity. Knowing how to swim can save your child’s life and should be a priority all year long, even among all the amazing options for kid’s activities. Unlike ball, dancing, piano or karate, participation in formal swim lessons decreases your child’s chance of dying by drowning by 88%. Swimming is not a seasonal activity, it’s an essential one. Putting your child in swim lessons until they can safely jump in, float and get back to the wall should be your priority the same way buckling them into their car seat is. I know schedules and budgets are tight, so when you’re looking over priorities, budgets and activities for your little one, remember why learning how to swim should be at the top of the list. If your child falls into a pool those soccer, gymnastics, basketball and music classes won’t help them. Swimming lessons will. Knowing how to swim is an essential safety and life skill.

3) Learning to swim takes time. It takes more than a few classes over June and July to learn this complicated skill. Depending on age, learning to swim takes several months, if not years to accomplish. How long it takes depends on how often you come to class, the child’s age, personality, disposition, buoyancy, comfort levels, and more. When you think about how long it takes to learn to swim, compare it to other complicated skills your child has learned or will learn. How long did it take your child to learn to walk? To speak? To potty train? To tie their own shoes? To ride a bike? To read? Chances are it didn’t happen by practicing 30 minutes a week for one or two months. Like every other complicated skill, learning to swim is a process that requires repetition and consistency. The same way it takes the whole year of weekly dance classes to prepare for that one recital, or consistent phonics training to learn to read, or months of Karate classes to get their next belt, it’s going to take a time commitment for your child to learn how to swim. Plan to swim indefinitely until you can confidently say your child can fall in the pool and not drown.

If you want faster results, I recommend signing up for more frequent classes or private options. Since privates are cost prohibitive for many, choosing to come a minimum of 2 x a week is a great option for all families. I always tell people that coming more frequently is most important at the beginning, because that’s when the water is still a death sentence. You want to give your child the skills that can save their life as soon as possible. Once they have basic lifesaving skills you can always come less frequently or move to another activity. I usually ask parents - are you confident that your child will survive if they fall into the deep end? If the answer is no, put them in lessons as frequently as possible until they can. Once your child moves past this beginner phase and the water is no longer an instant death sentence, then you can drop down to one or two weekly classes for upkeep and prioritize other activities.

4.) Find a program that teaches safety first. This sounds like something I don’t need to mention but I do. Every swim school has their own methodologies and theories about teaching swimming. Especially for the 3 and under crowd- there are a lot of differences in what is taught to swimmers. Some baby classes are designed for comfort and bonding only- the babies and guardians do more singing, splashing, and basic water acclimation skills but don’t learn life saving techniques. Other programs, like ours, specifically teach babies safety first: how to wait before entering, how to hold their breath, how to roll over, how to float, etc.

There is a big schism in the swim world between programs that teach kids to breathe by floating first or those that teach swimmers to lift their head to breathe. One popular program you may have heard of is ISR, which is known for teaching babies to float. ISR is not the only program that teaches babies to float. Safe Swim does not use ISR methods, philosophy or curriculum but we do share the belief that babies and all people should learn how to roll over to breathe on their back first, then how to swim on their belly.
Check in with the programs you are considering and ask them - what are the objectives for my baby/child? What are the goals? If they aren’t teaching your baby to roll over and breathe, I would recommend finding another program that does. At Safe Swim we have very specific goals and objectives. We start with helping swimmers feel safe and comfortable in the water, then teaching swimmers to float if they fall in the water, then we teach them to swim 15 yards with comfortable breaths, and finally we teach them the techniques of competitive swimming. We emphasize safety at every level of our program, teaching them how to ask before entering the water, how to get back to the side for help, how to float, how to use personal floatation devices, how to avoid being submerged by another swimmer and how to safely rescue a person who is drowning.

Again, this distinction would be most important for baby/toddler classes because those are the ones that tend to be more acclimation vs. skills’ based. Ask if the classes are primarily for water acclimation or if the baby will also be taught life saving skills. Every program is different, find the right fit for your family, but remember that babies can learn how to roll, float and save themselves if they fall in.

That’s a small piece of what I’d like to share! I hope that if there’s one thing you take from this article it’s that teaching your babyl/toddler to swim is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. If you want to keep in touch, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, we post regularly and would love to have you stop by. Have a safe and happy fall!!

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