Is your child meeting their swimming milestones?

There is one question I want you to honestly ask yourself this week as the weather heats up – can your child or grandchild swim? I mean, really swim, competently? Would they be able to turn around and get themselves back to the edge of the pool if they fell in, or if they became tired whilst swimming? Do they know not to play breath holding games or challenges in the water? Would they be able to swim against a rip current at the beach? Would they cope if faced with cold water or strong currents in the river?
A report by the Royal Life Saving Society showed that three out of four children had quit swimming classes by age of just eight years old, long before they’d learned skills that could save their lives. Children who had regular weekly lessons were most likely to reach national safety and swimming benchmarks at age nine and 10, yet only 25 per cent were staying in lessons long enough to reach this standard.
Because children were leaving lessons before reaching important milestones, the statistics are both surprising and alarming. 83 per cent of 12-year-old children couldn’t tread water for two minutes – the goal for children by the time they finish primary school – 40 per cent couldn’t swim 50 metres of freestyle or backstroke, and one third couldn’t swim 25 metres of survival strokes. In a country surrounded by water, with a lifestyle largely defined by water, this represents a dangerous declining trend in swimming skills, especially when considered in conjunction with the time spent out of the water this year due to Covid. Our children are never 100% safe around the water, so their swim education should not stop until they are fully competent in the water, and meeting the national safety benchmarks. Over time I have seen less children competing in 50 metre events at their school swimming carnivals, and more children opting for the novelty races, which has often made me wonder – what’s changed over the years?
Perhaps parents often pull children out of lessons because of lack of time, competing after-school activities, cost, believing swimming is a summer sport, resistance from children themselves, and misinformation from untrustworthy sources. Let’s look at each of these perceived barriers to swimming participation and dispel the myths – in next week’s column! Because swimming lessons – alongside barriers & supervision – are one of the most important ways to ensure our children are afer, all year round.