Water Safety…a Skill That Saves Lives

The month of May signals the beginning of summer fun: playing outside, splashing in outdoor pools and spending time in or near lakes and oceans. May is also water safety month. Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five? Or that a young child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water? Drowning can happen quickly and when we least expect it. Water safety education is extremely important and should be something every parent and early childhood educator teaches their children or students. Although enrolling your preschooler in a quality swim program will not prevent drowning, (proper adult supervision is the best prevention) participation in swimming lessons will add awareness.

British Swim School– We are surrounded by water with a pond in our backyard and summers spent at our family’s lake house. My husband and I want to insure our daughter feels comfortable in the water while developing the proper safety skills, so we enrolled her in the British Swim School when she was two-years old. Founded in 1981, the British Swim School teaches water safety survival skills to children as young as three months. Children are immediately taught the back float which is considered the most important water survival skill as it enables swimmers to rest, breathe and call for help, alleviating the silent danger of floating face down.

Our daughter began in the Swimboree class which requires adult participation (an adult goes in the pool with the child). Through nursery rhymes and engaging songs, our knowledgeable instructor, Miss Kayla, helped our daughter feel comfortable in the water. Miss Kayla assisted Lillian with the ability to turn over in the water until she was independently floating on her back. (Lillian learned quickly and was never afraid) When she turned three, Lillian moved to the Minnow class where she goes into the pool by herself. The thought of going into the pool without Mommy was a bit stressful for Lillian so Miss Kayla gradually got her prepared by having me step out of the pool for longer periods of time, gradually releasing her to independence. Now she eagerly goes into the pool independently and is thriving at the next level where they practice safe pool entry and exit and are learning “monkey, airplane, soldier” (arm movements in the water) as well as jumping into the water and turning onto their backs to float. All of the instructors are well trained and amazing with children but Lillian has a special bound with Miss Kayla. The British Swim School has small class sizes so each student gets one on one instruction and differentiated support. The program is flexible, allowing students to easily make up a class if one is missed due to any circumstance. A busy family like ours really appreciates this benefit. Their number one priority is teaching water safety so water safety rules and procedures are practiced and enforced. Every so many months they have a special “water safety week” where students are encouraged to wear light clothing over their swimsuits so they can get the feel of what it is like to be in water fully clothed. They practice shouting for help and learn how to safely assist someone who has fallen into the water and is in need of help.

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Lillian enjoys taking lessons with the British Swim School. Here she is with her instructor, Miss Kayla.

Josh the Baby Otter (A tale promoting water safety for children)– The British Swim School recently gifted us with the fabulous book “Josh the Baby Otter” by Blake Collingsworth and illustrated by Ashley Spitsnogle. The book was written in honor of the author’s son, Joshua, and in memory of all the precious children who have been lost to the tragedy of drowning. The delightful picture book teaches children about water safety through the adventures of Josh, a baby otter who is learning how to float on his back. “One of the first things otters teach their babies is how to float. This keeps them safe in the water. When we get tired, or the waters are too rough to swim, we can roll on our backs, look up at the sky, relax and float.” Learning how to float is the first step to learning how to swim. The book emphasizes the importance of staying away from all kinds of water unless you are with an adult and making sure you always swim with a buddy. The back of the book contains some valuable resources for children and adults. There is a cute “Learn to Float” song, facts about otters and a list of water safety tips. After reading the book children can take the Josh the Otter Water Safety Pledge. There is also a free “Josh the Otter” app where children can read the story, listen to the song, take the water safety pledge and enjoy coloring pages. Please visit www.joshtheotter.org for more information regarding water safety and to learn more about the “Josh the Otter” project, an organization devoted to water safety education. The book can be purchased on the “Josh the Otter” website or at Amazon. All proceeds from the sale of the book go directly to drowning prevention and instruction.