NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Summer is unofficially underway, and in Texas that means more people are spending time in the water.
Whether it’s the pool, lake or ocean, it’s important for kids to be comfortable and safe around the water; but instructors say it takes more than just a lesson or two to get to that level.
At 2 1/2 years old Lea Zortman’s son, Bexar, is becoming at ease in the water. “He started out where he would run in the water. It was quite amusing. Now all of a sudden he is starting to lay flat and truly kick through the water on his own,” Lea says.
For the last year and a half, Bexar has been taking lessons year-round at Emler Swim School in Dallas.
His dad was a collegiate swimmer, so it’s important to Lea that Bexar learns to swim. Not just for the skills, his mom says – but for safety in case of emergency.
Lea says she and her family witnessed a child’s near-drowning at a pool, and it rattled her. “We were at the pool and it happened to a little girl there. It was so quick, there were so many people around, and it happened,” she recalls.
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children under age 5.
It happens quickly, and “it happens silently, too, which is the scariest part about it,” said Korey Causey a teacher at Emler Swim School.
At Emler, Causey says babies as young as six months old learn to hold their breath under water. “In the event that there’s ever an accident, if somebody was to fall in the water, that’s extra time for mom and dad or somebody — a life guard — to get to the scene and get that child to a safe position.”
Causey says a lot of parents, though, have misconceptions about what it takes to become proficient. He says a handful of lessons won’t do the trick.
“You’re not going to see perfect swimming, you’re not going to see your child be 100 percent independent and safe in the water with just a few lessons. It really is going to take potentially several years of consistent swim lessons to get them to a point where they be independent,” Causey says.
A study by Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine shows, formal swim lessons are associated with an 88 percent reduction in the risk of drowning in kids one to four years old.
At Emler, Bexar is learning to life-saving skills in the water. “Ready go, grab the wall, Bexar, grab the wall! Good job!” an instructor cheers.
While the neighborhood pool will bring Bexar and his family out during the summer months, his mom says, he’ll also be in this one, year-round.
“As soon as we jumped into the pool yesterday, he was swimming he was happy. He was comfortable. He knew where the edge of the pool was he knew how to climb out,” Lea says.
The instructors at Emler say, even if your children have taken lessons in the past, it never hurts to bring them in for evaluation, to determine how proficient they really are in water safety.
Free water acclimation classes start at two months old, paid lessons begin at six months, and go through adulthood.