Summer is here, which means it is prime time to get out and go for a dip in the pool, but sadly, it’s also the time when more children drown. In fact, drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages one to four.
Drowning is often called a “silent killer” and is one of the scariest dangers for parents because they cannot hear a child calling for help when the child is under water.
Teaching children to swim is one of the best ways to prevent drowning, and there are lots of options for swim lessons all around our region. Those lessons start with basic water safety and how to save yourself if you fall in and cannot swim well.
Stephanie Wright, General Manager of Goldfish Swim School which just opened its second location in the area in Peters Township, says, “We teach them, if they fall in, turn right back around because they’re so close to that wall. They just fell from it, and that’s the best way for them to get out of the pool.” Wright explains, “Most kids will swim to the first wall they see which is across the pool, and that’s why a lot of drownings occur.”
Wright recommends kids start swim lessons at 4-months old. Kids as young as two have actually learned to swim on their own.
A survey by USA Swimming found that 70% of African American children and 60% of Hispanic children do not know how to swim. This can be because of lack of access to pools and lessons and because of fears passed down through generations. Those children can be 5 times more likely to drown.
At the Themla Lovette YMCA in the Hill District in the city of Pittsburgh, they’re working to change that. Shawn Haupt, who runs the aquatic program for the local YMCA’s, says they taught about 4,000 children to swim last year. Their lessons start at 6-months-old and continue for adults, starting at just $6/class. He says even parents who don’t swim are able to do the parent-child class in the water with kids ages 6 months to 3-years-old because it is in the shallow end.
Haupt says, in addition to the swim classes they offer at the YMCA facilities, “We’ve taken some of our programs outside into schools and given lessons to local junior highs or some of the elementary students where they can just walk down from class and take the swim lessons.”
Swim lessons teach skills like front stroke, back stroke, treading water and floating, but they also focus on general water safety. For the children, Haupt says, “We teach them never to enter the water without a parent, guardian, baby sitter.”
Wright says that for the parents, “First and foremost, parents need to be aware of where their children are at all times. Even if they are in a life jacket, you need to keep your eyes on these kids. It takes a split second for something to go wrong.”
They also recommend lessons year-round to really improve swimming skills. New series of lessons are constantly being offer at most swim schools and municipalities.
Pittsburgh Citiparks offers a new session of lessons starting July 24th for only $20 for ten classes. They also offer classes year-round on weekends.
For more details on all of these classes and many resources for parents and families, go to Kidsburgh.org.