I first became a swimming instructor in the UK 12 years ago (!). I fell in love with the job immediately. In honesty; I wasn’t planning on working with children at any point in my life whatsoever, I was just ‘on a gap year from College’ and saw the course advertised at my local pool.
After a couple of months, my first employer (almost literally) pushed me into becoming a parent and baby instructor. For the first day or so of my in-water training I was petrified of the babies, and even more petrified of the parents.
Then I fell in love with it.
I also became a little bit obsessive and possibly a little bit preachy, but I am unapologetic. In my mind, swimming lessons should be compulsory for all kids (and they should be government funded, but that’s for another day). In the meantime:
Here are 5 reasons swimming lessons are non-negotiable for my children:
1. Swimming is the only sport that could literally save my child’s life.
There are an estimated 360 000 annual drowning deaths worldwide, as stated by The World Health Organisation 2018:
‘Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury-death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.’
‘Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years.’
According to the Royal Lifesaving National Drowning Report 2018 (Aus) ‘There were 249 drowning deaths in aquatic locations across Australia between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018’.
Drowning is quiet, and it can happen to anyone.
It isn’t realistic to expect that you can just avoid water. Even if you chose to avoid beaches, pools, lakes, dams, rivers, streams, oceans and ponds for the entirety of your life, drowning hazards still exist in your home.
‘Young children are especially at risk — they can drown in less than 2 inches (6 centimetres) of water. That means drowning can happen where you’d least expect it — the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater.’ – Kids Health.org
During swimming lessons, teachers work on numerous safety skills alongside general technique. You may not realise, but every step of a good lesson will be preparing your child for an emergency. I have outlined some below:
- Breath control aims to reduce the risk of panic, meaning that precious air is not wasted
- Floating minimises the energy used to keep a face above the water
- Turning encourages little ones to find the nearest edge or flotation device
- Holding on to the edge reinforces the habit of patiently waiting whilst remaining safe
- Jumping in allows littles to experience the way their body feels when they land in different positions in the water, and how to get back to safety
- Diving for toys encourages them to open their eyes and find what they need (i.e. an edge or an adult).
When my sister was just two years old, the family dog accidentally knocked her into a large pond. Her clothes immediately weighed her down and she sank. My Grandmother and Mother luckily saw it happen, and Mum jumped in and got her. While the likelihood of her swimming to save herself would have been slim (due to the heavy clothing) the fact that she did not scream and waste her oxygen would have given her precious seconds while under the water.
It was also incredibly, incredibly important that she was constantly supervised while close to the water.
2. Swimming is great for lung and heart development.
Swimming trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently and can also help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. I liked this article here which goes into more detail. Sorry (not sorry) to harp on about my own experiences again, but I was born with a congenital heart defect which required me to have open heart surgery at around 18 months. Typically, a follow-up operation happens at 17 years, but so far, I have received the all-clear from my Cardiologist each year. I personally believe that my regular swimming has helped me to maintain a reasonable level of Cardiovascular health, and I want the same for my boys.
3. Swimming significantly enhances core strength and muscle development
While my children are growing, their bodies are developing at a rapid pace. Their muscles are going through a lot of changes, and being in the water strengthens them, but also allows them to recover.
‘The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life.’ – Human Kinetics
A strong core improves flexibility, mobility and strength; which allows children to engage in a wide range of physical activities, from sitting up unassisted, to flipping into a foam-pit.
Swimming is also great for rehabilitation, as it can be low-impact, and the water itself provides support for your muscles, bones and joints. While this point may be more relevant for the older generations, you never know when you may need physiotherapy or some form of physical rehabilitation. If your first experience with a pool and water resistance happens when you are already physically vulnerable, it may be harder to find the confidence to get started.
4. Swimming is inclusive
Swimming as a sport is incredibly inclusive. The water will provide support, the intensity is variable, and lessons can be held as groups, or as private 1-1 sessions. I have been privileged enough to have taught children and adults with diverse physical, mental and psychological needs; some as complete beginners and some working on techniques for triathlons. I love the diversity with which my job provides me, and I love that there is a sport that can change along with the needs of myself and my kids.
5. Swimming compliments a wide range of other physical activities
Knowing how to swim will enable my kids to participate in a wide range of sports (which would hopefully keep them out of trouble).
They are already showing an interest in surfing, kayaking and snorkelling, and as they grow older I expect that they will also enjoy diving, scuba diving, water polo and of course competing in swimming carnivals. I mean honestly, just look at this list of water sports.