Anyone who's been to a baby swimming class knows that it mostly consists of splashing, singing, crying, emergency pool evacuations due to diaper leaks and vomit, and very little actual swimming.
But while learning to blow bubbles and flutter kick might seem fruitless at such a young age, U.S. safety experts are urging parents to get their kids into swimming lessons as early as possible. In light of some terrifying statistics — that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages one to four — the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement last week.
"Research has found that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age one, and may lower drowning rates," Dr. Linda Quan, a co-author of the policy statement, said in a news release.
"Families can talk with their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, and then look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors. Ideally, programs should teach 'water competency' too — the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly."
Swimming lessons alone aren't enough
Drowning is the second-leading cause of death in Canadian kids under age five, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS). It usually happens "quickly and silently," according to Parachute, a Canadian charity dedicated to safety advocacy.
"Several studies show that children do not have the skills to swim on their own until they are four years old, even if they start lessons at a younger age," CPS said.
Both organizations, as well as the AAP, emphasize the importance of life jackets, adult supervision (even in very shallow water or bath tubs), CPR and First Aid training for adults, and four-sided pool fencing if you have a pool at home.
"Water is everywhere, and we need multiple layers to protect children from the deadly risks it poses," Dr. Quan said in the AAP news release.
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