The next time you take your little guy to the pediatrician, you just might come home with an unexpected prescription for swimming lessons. A new Water Smart Babies program is gaining traction in a few warm-weather states, which is great news considering that children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. We talked with Lana Whitehead, spokesperson for Water Smart Babies and an American Red Cross certified water-safety instructor, about ways to ensure your little swimmers are safe.
1. Start young. “Kids can begin swim classes as soon as they can walk,” says Whitehead. But getting them into water for pure enjoyment (with you holding on tight, of course) can be done as early as 6 months, which can be a great bonding experience.
2. Don't skimp on the safety measures. There are certain “layers” of protection you should implement to create a safe swimming environment for a child, says Whitehead. These layers include swimming lessons, putting up barriers (fencing, pool alarms, pool covers), becoming CPR-certified (for classes, visit redcross.org), and practicing “touch” supervision—always staying within arm's reach.
3. Get smart. Find a water-safety class for your child at usswimschools.org. He'll be taught to hold his breath underwater, flip onto his back to float, and swim to the edge of the pool or steps in case he falls in.