5 Ways You’ll Know Your Kids Are Water-Safe

Your goal is to teach your kids to be safe in the water. What exactly does that mean, though? How will you know that your kids are water safe?

What Water Safety Means

Being water safe means your kids have the skills they need to maneuver in the water with control and confidence. It’s not a guarantee that an accident couldn’t happen. Neither is having a driver’s license. It is a foundation that gives your kids what they need to swim with appropriate supervision in safe conditions.

Good indicators that your kids have gotten to this point are:

1. They can swim the width or length of the pool.

It’s easy for them to take breaths along the way whenever they need them.

2. They can tread water for at least three minutes in any depth.

Three minutes might not sound like very long, but give it a try yourself. If you haven’t mastered the fine art and form of treading, you’re likely to tire yourself out.

If your kids are good at treading water, though, their boundless energy will let them keep going a lot longer than you’d think possible—much longer than minimum of three minutes.

3. They can get into the pool by themselves easily.

Your kids should be able to get into the pool, either by jumping in from the side or from sitting on the edge. (Once your kids are swimming, the real trick is to keep them from soaking you with a cannonball every chance they get.)

4. They can get out of the pool by themselves easily.

This is a big one, because while even a great swimmer can’t tread water forever, it doesn’t take a great swimmer to get to the edge of the pool and get out. Your kids should be able to get out of the pool by grabbing the side and pulling themselves out or by swimming to the stairs or ladder and climbing out.

5. They can pick things up from the bottom of the pool.

This one indicator (that’s coincidentally a lot of fun) shows that your kids have mastered several critical swimming skills, including holding their breath underwater, moving effectively through the water, and surfacing.

    Celebrate water safety when you get there, but don’t ever underestimate the power of the water or let your kids swim without supervision.

    The Top 3 Reasons to Teach Your Own Kids to Swim

    Why did I teach my kid to swim instead of outsourcing the job? You’re probably thinking the answer’s obvious: I’m a masochist. I’m really not.

    I decided to teach him myself for three top reasons.

    My Top 3 Reasons

    Reason #1: He had to learn.

    There are lots of reasons to learn to swim. It’s fun. It helps prevent childhood obesity. You need it to do all sorts of amazing sports and activities. While I entertained visions of my son yachting and kayaking and surfing in his future, I have to confess that my main motivation was fear that he’d drown.

    Drowning kills more than 2000 kids under five a year in the US. Drowning is the cause of 30% of all deaths of kids between one and four, and more than 75% of the kids who drown were seen by a parent less than five minutes before they were found.

    (These statistics and many more are available from the CDC and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Perfect for those times when you find you’re just not worrying about your kids enough.)

    Reason #2: I wasn’t happy with the effects and results of swimming lessons.

    I love swimming, and I wanted my son to have that same joy. Swimming lessons were not giving it to him. (They also weren’t teaching him to swim.)

    Here were the problems:

    • He was afraid. He didn’t know the teachers. The clock was ticking and they just wanted him to get into the pool. I hated that he cried and clung to my leg. I agonized over whether to force him to leave me, which I did. It was painful for both of us.
    • He was miserable. The pool was cold, and even though he was wearing a wetsuit, he spent so much of his time waiting for other kids to practice that he was blue—not his normal color—by the end of each lesson.
    • He wasn’t learning. The teachers didn’t adjust their teaching plans to fit his needs. The college kids who were teaching swimming as a summer job had a boilerplate swimming lesson structure, and if what they were trying didn’t work, they kept hammering away at it anyway. Week after week, I watched my son practice the same skills without getting better or learning anything new.

    There are definitely great swimming lessons and great swimming teachers out there. If I could have had my son take three private lessons a week from the owner of his swimming school, the results might have been great. The reality, though, is that nobody cared as much about helping my son learn to swim, fast, and about making sure he was having fun doing it, as I did.

    Reason #3: I thought I could do it, and it turned out I was right.

    I knew my son better than anybody else. I knew how to swim. Beyond that, I figured I could learn.

    Here’s where the masochism comes in. I’m a little bit obsessive, so I went into major research mode. I read dozens of books. I interviewed experts. I took CPR and lifeguarding classes. I spent a lot of time in the pool with my son and other kids, teaching them to swim. (We all had a good time doing that.) I used my experience as a former assistant preschool teacher to expand on my research and develop new and better techniques.

    Now my son knows how to swim. The hard part is over. It turned out that it wasn’t hard at all. It was so much easier than watching him suffer in swimming lessons. It ended up being fun. It makes me smile just thinking about him jumping into my arms in the pool or getting a piggyback ride. The moment when he first realized that he was moving himself through the water? I got to see his face close up.

    Teaching kids to swim

    I did a lot of research and practice, and I’d hate to see that go to waste, so I’m going to share tips and tricks for teaching kids to swim here. If I can do it, so can you.

    Any swimming lesson horror stories out there?