Now that the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines suggesting that children should start taking swimming lessons at age 1, parents might wonder how they should go about teaching their toddler to navigate the water.
Connie Harvey, head of aquatics development for the American Red Cross, suggests that parents choose classes that emphasize water safety, have at least one instructor for every 10 students, and require the parents to be in the water with their child.
Previously, the AAP had recommended that children start swim lessons at age 4 or older.
The reason the AAP had opposed swimming lessons for kids younger than 4 was that no studies proved that learning to swim at such an early age prevented drowning. There was a concern that parents whose babies supposedly knew how to swim might be less vigilant when supervising the kids around the water.
There is now evidence, however, that kids ages 1 to 4 are less likely to drown if they are given formal swimming lessons.
Jeffrey Weiss, lead author of the policy statement, said, "Parents must look at the skills, maturity level and frequency of their child's exposure to water to determine when they are ready for lessons. Not every child is ready to learn to swim at the same age."
One reason the age recommendation was lowered is because of the increase in sales of large, inexpensive inflatable pools. Because they are portable, they are often exempt from building codes that require fences. Their soft sides pose a danger because a child could lean over and fall in head-first.
The AAP said teenagers and toddlers are at the greatest risk of drowning.
Here are more water-safety tips:
■ Hair and hands can get sucked into the drains of pools. Check for proper drain covers before letting kids get in.
■ Children should never be left alone near any type of water, including bathtubs, standing water or even toilets. It takes only a few inches of water to drown.
■ Close supervision means being within arm's length of a young child.
■ Pools should be protected by at least a 4-foot-high, four-sided fence that is not chain-link, making it harder to climb. Gates should latch automatically.
■ Parents and caregivers should learn CPR if they participate in frequent swimming activities with kids.
■ Keep rescue equipment, such as a shepherd's hook and a portable phone, near the pool.
■ For more information about swim lessons for babies, contact the YMCA of Central Kentucky at (859) 254-9622 or www.ymcaofcentralky.org
Call Lexington Parks and Recreation at (859) 288-2973, go to www.lexingtonky.gov/index and click on "Pools & Aquatic Centers" or check with your local parks and recreation department.