Safer around water

By Jade Hanson

Australia’s an island; we’re surrounded by water. Add in our rivers, creeks, dams and swimming pools and it’s clear that every parent and every child needs to learn vital personal water safety, survival techniques and how to swim - preferably with a trained professional.

Being safer in, on and around water is vital. Too many children die or suffer life-impacting disability as a result of not knowing about water safety. You can, and should, take steps to prevent this from happening to your family.

Always supervise and be within arms reach! Drowning is a silent killer; and it only takes a minute for children to start drowning. That could be the time you take to answer a phone call, the front door, put the kettle on or fill a water bottle. Once safe breathing cannot be maintained; the outcomes can be tragic.

Don’t put off learning how to be safer in and around water.

How do you teach your children to be safe around water?

We’ll say it again. The first rule of water safety is ‘be within arms reach’. Parents are a child’s first teacher, you provide the encouragement as well as the emotional and physical support infants and pre-schoolers need in order to feel secure during lessons.

You are an essential and vital part of the learning process, as you learn, so does your child.

It is vitally important for parents and carers to remember that irrespective of aquatic ability, children are never completely safe when in, on or around water and your child must be constantly supervised by an appropriately skilled person.

Here’s what to look for in water safety and swimming lessons

Make sure the swimming lessons are conducted by licenced teachers such as those accredited by AUSTSWIM- – our platypus symbol is nationally recognised.

Ensure classes are a maximum of 30 minutes duration and in warm water (30 - 32°C) for infants, toddlers and beginner level primary aged children.

The water temperature should be appropriate for ambient temperature, the age of child and the activities within the lesson.

Look for varied educational activities enhanced through games, songs and equipment.

The program curriculum needs to include:

  • Activities in a combination of body positions (upright, vertical, horizontal)
  • Information and water safety learning outcomes for parents
  • Experiences in simulated open water activities
  • Opportunity for feeling a range of water depths and conditions
  • Child centred progress so that your child displays comfort, confidence and readiness to move to the next stage or try something new, different

Play Based Activity is an important process in children’s learning. It provides the opportunity to try something new or experiment with something known. It’s non judgemental and enhances exploration while providing comfort with repetition as it helps build confidence. It also helps develops social and physical skills as well as language and communication abilities.

The aim is to develop confidence, a sense of comfort, happiness and safety while connecting and refining vital brain pathways. That’s quite a list of benefits to add to keeping everyone in your family safer!

So, when should you start lessons?

AUSTSWIM recommends starting formal aquatic programs at six (6) months of age. Remember that infants under 6 months can benefit from water sensory experiences in the home bath or shower.

Where can you attend water safety and swimming lessons?

There are plenty of venues offering infant and preschool aquatics programs. We recommend you phone a venue near you to arrange a time to view lessons in progress; talk to parents in the program and get a general feel for yourself.

Make sure you check with the program manager to ensure all teachers hold appropriate and current AUSTSWIM Licences.


AUSTSWIM ’Water Safety’ TIP

Young children are fascinated by and attracted to water. Recognise or eliminate potential water dangers around your home; including nappy buckets, fish ponds, bathtubs, toilets, wading or swimming pools.

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Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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