By Nico Strydom
Drowning is one of the main causes of unnatural deaths among young children in South Africa.
“The sad part is that almost all the deaths could possibly have been avoided through proper supervision over children who could not swim, by informing children about the dangers of water, and by placing fences around and netting over swimming pools,” says Dr James Nutt, general practitioner at Intercare Glenfair.
According to Nutt children can suffer permanent brain damage within minutes when oxygen is cut off. “Children can even drown in a basin or a small fishpond with a little bit of water in it.”
In the meantime many swimming schools have seen the light and offer swimming lessons for children from a very young age, even from as young as a few months. Many experts say that it is never too early to start your child on swimming lessons, but others say that the child should be at least a few years old.
Enid Whelan, an experienced swimming coach, is of the opinion that it is ideal for children to start with swimming lessons between the ages of six months and one year. “Between eight and nine months is when children usually become more afraid of water and strange environments. In general, the older children are before they start swimming, the more afraid they will probably be.”
How to prepare your child for swimming lessons
You can help your baby to feel at ease in water and to get a feeling that water is a natural part of his or her life. Experts’ advice is that you therefore put your baby’s whole body in water to make it used to swimming lessons later in life.
Bathtime is the ideal opportunity to make babies in particular used to water. You can get into the bath with baby and every time let in a bit more water. You can begin to test whether the baby minds getting water in its face and you may even very briefly push its head under the water. According to experts babies instinctively hold their breath the moment they are submerged.
Experts agree that it is important to take small steps at a time. If the baby becomes upset, take it out of the water and dry and pamper it. Be friendly and praise each action performed.
Child Mag: http://www.childmag.co.za/content/why-your-child-should-learn-swim-early-age#.Ww6sNUiFOM8
Child Safe: http://www.childsafe.org.za/drown.htm
Enid Swimming Babes: http://www.enidswimmingbabes.co.za/Home/