Give kids something to do this summer: try swim lessons
Summer is officially here, and that means lots of outdoor play and water activities.
Water is everywhere and kids can be impulsive -- following their friends, jumping after a toy that's fallen into water or wandering away from adult supervision.
One of the best ways to be prepared is making sure your child knows how to swim. Lessons are available at the Greencastle Aquatic Center in Robe-Ann Park for the July 7-18 session.
The Aquatic Center follows the American Red Cross guidelines for swimming safety.
Classes generally start with the basics: Blowing bubbles under water, floating and safely swimming to the side of the pool.
Higher level classes teach stroke skills and held develop endurance and confidence in the water.
Typically, swimming lessons help to slowly build confidence and ensure competence. Level one swimmers are taught to get comfortable in the water. level two teaches fundamental skills, while level three participants develop strokes with guided practice.
The next level helps swimmers improve strokes and gain other water skills. Level five offers stroke refinement with improved coordination and level six helps students to use stroke techniques for endurance and efficiency.
The American Red Cross courses generally don't allow flotation devices like water wings. There are both pros and cons to the devices, say officials.
Floatation devices can give a child more confidence in their skills but water wings can pop. They also put children in a vertical position and restrict arm movement.
Inner tubes can also pop or slip off. It's better to use coast guard- approved life jackets for kids who can't swim.
Water wings and inflatable toys are great fun but they are just that, toys. These items should not be relied upon for safety. Parents and caregivers need to know and understand the difference between toys and proper safety gear.
The American Red Cross recommends that while water toys such as water wings and inner tubes are fun accessories to bring to the beach or pool, the only truly safe water accessory is a personal flotation device (PFD) approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (check for the Coast Guard stamp).
Kids -- and adults -- who are not strong swimmers or who rely on inflatable toys for safety should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFDs whenever they are in or around the water. Each person should have the appropriate PFD for his or her weight, which is found clearly marked in the Coast Guard stamp.
Red Cross instructors say if a child doesn't like to wear their PFD, take them on a shopping trip where they can pick out their own PFD. Including them in the decision will allow for a better fit and ensure that they're happy to wear a PFD at all times in or on the water.
The Aquatic Center does not allow flotation devices other than PFDs to be used in the pool. They do have approved PFDs for people who may need them while swimming at the center.
No matter what a child is wearing and no matter what flotation items are at hand, he or she should never be left unattended in or around the water. Parents should always practice "reach supervision" which means that he or she is within arm's length of the child at all times.
Drowning can occur in as little as an inch or two of water, depending on the size of the child. So it's important that a child of any age know what to do in the water without any kind of floatation device.
Swimming lessons are available at the Aquatic Center in Robe Ann Park. Call the Aquatic Center at 653-1909 for information.