by Mary Wilson
The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging parents to start their children in swim lessons as early as age one, according to a recently released study. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children in the US aged one to four, and the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among children under 19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning claimed the lives of almost 1000 US children in 2017. In recognition of the popularity of swimming and other water-related recreational activities in the United States, and the resulting need for ongoing public education on safer water practices, the month of May 2019 is considered National Water Safety Month.
“It is a powerful way to send a crucial message at the start of the busy summer swim season,” said Connie Harvey, Director of the Aquatics Centennial Initiative for the American Red Cross. “There are layers of protection involved in water safety. Ensuring everyone in the family learns how to swim and that parents and caregivers have the knowledge and skills to handle emergencies around the water, including how to perform CPR, is a good place to start. National Water Safety Month helps us communicate these messages.”
According to Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO, nearly all Americans believe it is important for children to learn how to swim at an early age.
“That’s why we’re proud to promote the importance of water safety at our nation’s park and recreation centers where there are opportunities for everyone, especially children, to learn how to swim,” Tulipane said.
What started as a week in 2003 has grown into this annual month-long event that is supported by thousands of aquatics facilities and professionals that provide educational programs, public service announcements, governmental proclamations, dealer and aquatics business promotion and the distribution of water-safety-themed materials, designed to help prevent water-related fatalities, illnesses and injuries.
“In 2018, we were able to secure proclamations from governors in all 50 states recognizing May as National Water Safety Month. This recognition emphasizes the importance of protecting kids and families in and around the water through education and building awareness,” said Rick Root, World Waterpark Association (WWA) President. “Participating in National Water Safety Month is a wonderful opportunity to broaden our reach and amplify our message about the importance of learning to swim and providing undistracted parental supervision while children are in or near the water.”
Locally, employees at The View community center in Grandview take water safety seriously, and consider it a top priority for anyone visiting the facility’s swimming pool.
“We have too many kids coming in here needing saved,” said Grandview Parks and Rec’s Aquatics Supervisor Kaitlyn Keck. “We had two saves on Saturday alone. It seems like every year, we have more and more kids needing saved or are drowning. Water is everywhere. It’s not just in a pool. It’s really scary to have to go in and save a kid. It is also scary for the kid. It can give them a bad experience and make them uncomfortable around water.”
Keck helps adults and children of all ages to get over their fear of water. She said that there are some adults who are terrified to go on a cruise or be near a body of water because of something that may have happened to them a long time ago.
“I went to a job fair at Grandview High School a few weeks ago, and we asked students if they’d be interested in being a lifeguard at The View,” said Keck. “Probably 90 percent of those we asked said they didn’t know how to swim. It’s like riding a bike: you never forget once you learn, but you have to learn how to do it.”
New this year, Parks and Rec is partnering with the Grandview School District to offer basic swim lessons for fourth graders enrolled in summer school. They’ll teach the students basic water safety, including when to get help, survival swimming, and how to properly wear a life jacket.
Swim lessons are offered through Grandview Parks and Rec, as well as lifeguard certification, CPR and other water-related activities. Private or group swim lessons are available. The View also offers free, family-oriented events year-round. Visit www.grandview.org for more information on lessons or events.