How to teach your children about water safety?

Coming off the back of 2 National Swim Safety weeks, I’ve talked a lots about education and early swimming lessons both playing an integral part in keeping our kids safe around the water. One of the very best parts of my job is to visit day care centres, pre-schools, community groups and primary schools to talk about water safety. Children of this age learn well through fun and play, so we teach the water safety rules with stories, songs, movement, CPR practise and our mascot, Paddles the Platypus! However this is just 30 minutes in a child’s life, and water safety principles need constant reinforcement by parents and other caregivers. Education should start very early, at home, with parents consistently talking to children about the rules – never go near the pool without an adult, never climb the pool fence, shut the gate, never swim alone, let an adult know if another child goes near the pool alone, swim between the flags at the beach, reach to rescue, be careful in the bath, no breath holding games or challenges underwater, etc. We can also educate by being a good role model – stay with children as they bath and explain why you are doing so. Put the mobile phone down when supervising children in the pool or at the beach or river. Get in the pool and show them how much fun can be had swimming together. Be sun smart and put sunscreen on yourself too. Empty esky’s, buckets and baths after use and tell children why it is important to do so. Don’t drink alcohol when recreating around water. If you don’t know how to swim, or have a fear of the water, be sure not to hand that down to your children – it is never too late to learn (and we now offer adult group swimming lessons)! Swim Australia recommends starting swimming lessons from 6 months, but you can and should practice early water familiarisation before this. Fear of the water is acquired, so make sure baby has regular baths and showers from newborn, and becomes comfortable with the sensation of water being trickled and then poured over their head. Your 6 month old will then accept the water much more readily, and with less fear, when starting lessons. Overall, always make it fun to promote retention of the water safety messages covered – there are some great swim safety education resources available through the ‘Kids Alive, Do The 5’ website, including books, songs cartoons, etc. Our Water Safety Visits use these resources and are free of charge within the Penrith LGA – if you would like us to come and visit your child’s school or daycare centre, just contact me! We also provide intensive learn to swim lessons for both primary and high school groups within school hours by arrangement, and can do so all year round due to our indoor heated pools, as well as a water safety theory course for children who are unable to participate in the water. There are lots of options, so let’s help our children by teaching them how to stay safer around the water!