Start Young To Save Lives
If you had any doubt that summer is here, just step outside. As you look for ways your family can escape the heat and humidity, remember to keep safety top of mind. Drowning can happen nearly anywhere with standing water.
In fact, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. children ages 1 to 4, and the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in kids ages 5 to 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In its newest water safety guidelines, the AAP recommends children start swim lessons around age 1 to help decrease risks of drowning. This is the first time the AAP has suggested children begin learning water safety skills at such a young age.
“Swimming is truly a lifelong skill. Younger children will often be more open to learning the new skills as they have not quite developed a fear or hesitation around water,” explains says Tampa Y Aquatics Executive Amanda Walker. “The earlier they can learn and master basic swimming skills, the safer they will be as they continue to grow and develop.”
Formal lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent, which is why the Tampa Y wants every child to learn to swim.“We highly recommend parents keep their children enrolled in swim lessons year round,” says Amanda. “This ensures children not only learn the valuable skills needed, but that they continue to build their endurance in the water helping them to become safer swimmers.”
The Y’s Swim Starters classes help students, between 6 months to 3 years old, develop water enrichment and aquatic readiness. Accompanied by a parent, infants and toddlers learn to be comfortable in the water through fun and confidence-building experiences. Parents also learn how to supervise children in the water, prevent accidents and plan for emergencies.
When a swimmer reaches age 3, they can move to Swim Basics to develop a high level of comfort in the water by practicing safe water habits, engaging in underwater exploration and learning how to swim to safety and exit if they fall into a body of water.
For non-swimmers and beginners, the Tampa Y offers a free Safety Around Water program throughout the summer, thanks to the generosity of the Florida Blue Foundation. The Safety Around Water program is open to the entire community, ages 3-12 years. During the 4-day course, certified instructors teach kids a sequenced set of skills that will reduce the risk of drowning and give them confidence in and around water. Each 40-minute class includes exercises to help kids adjust to being in the water and skill sets they can use if they unexpectedly find themselves in trouble.
During Spring Break, the Tampa Y served nearly 1,000 kids and last month, more than 500 kids enrolled in Safety Around Water. The Tampa Y is offering the program again August 5-8. This is in addition to several sessions hosted by the YMCA of the Suncoast, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, Manatee YMCA and Sarasota YMCA. With 30 Ys offering the drowning prevention program, the goal is to impact more than 5,500 young lives this year alone.
You don’t have to be a Y member to participate but due to limited space, pre-registration is required. Contact your nearby Y for details.
Pictured above: WFLA News Channel 8 recently featured the Tampa Y’s free Safety Around Water program at the Campo Y.