Safe in the water


Learning to swim not only provides kids the opportunity to enjoy lots of water-filled fun, but it’s also essential to their safety. It also helps kids build strength and endurance, is an excellent form of exercise and builds kids’ confidence. What age should they begin taking lessons? A small study, “Association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood: a case-control study,” by R.A. Brenner, et al., has been conducted. It found kids between the ages of 1 and 4 years old had an 88% reduced risk of drowning if they had taken swimming lessons.

As for the age to begin swimming lessons, many medical experts recommend against it for babies under the age of 1. Infants are more susceptible to skin irritation from pool chemicals, swimmer’s ear, and hypothermia when water temperatures dip below 85°F. Also, leaky diapers in the pool increase the risk not only to your baby but to all the other swimmers of contracting a parasite. The nasty Cryptosporidium parasite causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss.


As young children grow, they usually come to love bath time. But getting splashed in the face is a different ball game. Try the following to ease your kid’s fears of the water.

  • Provide your child with a variety of water experiences and opportunities to get used to getting their face wet. Let your child wet and wash their own hair. Also, have your child try the shower with you. In warm weather, give your youngster a kiddie pool to splash around in and a sprinkler to run through.
  • Read storybooks to your child about swimming and swim lessons.
  • Don’t force your fearful little one into the pool. It can ultimately increase your child’s fears. Don’t make a big deal about your child’s fearfulness, either. Instead, offer encouragement and allow your kid time to warm up to the pool.
  • Offer praise for each step of progress your child makes, even if it’s just dipping their feet in the water. Look for ways to make being in the water a pleasurable experience.
  • Rewards can help. Offer your child an ice cream cone, trip to the park or small prize on the way home for taking a big step.


Claire McCarthy, MD, in “Swimming lessons: 10 things parents should know,” at Harvard Health Publishing, says to look for swim instructors trained and evaluated under the guidelines of a reputable agency.

Make sure the instructor is childcentered. Teaching kids to swim is different from teaching adults. It requires patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement.

Getting into a cold pool isn’t a pleasant experience. It also makes it harder to focus on learning and getting comfortable in the water. Make sure the pool is heated to at least 84°F for children over 6. If under 3, the temperature should be at least 87°F.

According to the CDC, it “is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues.” Because COVID-19 spreads through the air, look for classes that allow for social distancing from other students as well as the instructors.

Find out the class size and ratio of students to instructors. If you won’t be in the pool with your child, ask about lifeguards, especially if it’s a larger class. Also, do instructors get in the pool with the kids, or do they instruct from the deck? Here are some guidelines for student-teacher ratios based on the American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim program:
• Children up to 4 years old and attended in the pool by their parent, 12:1 ratio.
• Ages 3-5, with a buoyancy device, 6:1.
• Kids 6 and up, 8:1; for advanced classes, 10:1.

Ask if the pool chlorine and PH levels are tested regularly. Low PH causes eye irritation. Low chlorine levels can be a health risk. If you’re in doubt, pick up a test kit at a hardware store.

Make sure parents are allowed some ability to observe if they choose. When parents can attend the entire class, having additional eyes on the kids adds an extra layer of safety.