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Along with the swimsuit and sunscreen, parents may want to add another item to their pool-time checklist: swimming lessons. Lessons aren't just for the child who doesn't know how to swim; even children who were strong swimmers last year may need a refresher course.
Kristen Salazar's oldest son recently completed a six-week swimming instruction course.
"I'm not sure what it is" she says. "Kids just really don't want to listen to their parents, you know, when they're trying to instruct them to do things like swimming."
She calls both her 6-year-old Jason and 4-year-old Sean "water babies." They're in the pool about every day every summer. So when Jason's kindergarten class signed up for the course, she was thrilled and also relieved.
"When I was little, I almost drowned in a hot tub" Kristen explains. "That's when my mom got me swimming lessons. So I wanted to make sure I did the same thing for my kids. We just really want to make sure they understand pool safety, that if they fall in or get into trouble that they're going to be able to swim to the edge."
It's one of the most important lessons that instructors teach small swimmers.
"We do a lot of repetition, " says Aquatics Director Megan Pitts. "Coming in and then taking them right back to the wall, coming in, going right back to the wall."
Megan says children don't always realize they can turn around and go back and will often swim in only one direction.
Another safety maneuver is teaching children to float on their backs or face forward and kick their feet. Treading water is also part of an instruction course. It's not just about learning to swim.
"With our preschool and even our youth, [we teach them to look] around, wherever they are in a pool area, identifying things that float," Megan adds.
They're also instructed on yelling for help, looking for lifeguards or parents and how not to put themselves into a dangerous situation.
"I hope that I'm helping to keep kids safe for sure, and it's also about educating parents," Megan says.
Steve Tarver, a YMCA CEO, also underlines the message "that people understand that nothing takes the place of good and ongoing and vigilant supervision. There is no such thing as drown-proofing a child."
The YMCA will start swim classes with babies as young as 6 months old. With any child 3 and younger, the parent must be in the water with them through the class.
Most swim courses through the YMCA will cost between $40 and $60. Financial assistance may be available for people that can't afford the classes. See what classes may be offered in your area here.
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