Children hold hands as they gently splash in the water with their instructor
Children are gently guided around the water by their instructor
Children are gently guided around the water by their instructor
The newest swimmers wait for further instruction
The newest swimmers use life jackets and get lots of support from their instructor
With her brightly colored swim suit and equally sunny disposition, Leslie Paul stands poolside while she talks to the class about their upcoming lesson. Anxious to get started, the excited children quickly fall in line with their designated instructor and split off to different areas of the Windsor Oaks Pool for their third day of the week long swim training program. From the most timid of swimmers wearing fluorescent flotation devices, to confident splashers, each group is provided instruction based upon their level of comfort in the water.
Really Awesome People Swimming (RAPS) was founded by Leslie in 2007 after she found out about the high drowning rates amongst the minority population. The Hampton Roads, Virginia based organization teaches local children and teens who otherwise do not have the means to participate in swim lessons how to swim and to be safe while in, on or around the water. Leslie and her team of instructors passionately teach swimming and safety skills to children free of charge throughout the summer. Their goal is to ensure no child is left out when it comes to learning to swim due to lack of pool facilities, race or socioeconomic status.
Swimways Corp. supports Leslie and her team by donating swim training aids such as SwimWays water toys and pool noodles, and COOP waterproof balls and skateboard floats. In addition we also provide monetary support towards this worthy cause, enabling the RAPS team to ensure even more local children learn to swim.
Quick stats about RAPS:
346 children + 6 adults = 352 people served through the RAPS program in 2013
15 instructors with a combined total of 303 years of experience, and 1 lifeguard with 5 years of experience
Total number of people served through the RAPS program since 2007 = 1,315
Did you know?**
About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. Making it the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning.
Taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children ages 1 to 4 years.
African-American children ages 5 to 14 drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers.
Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
Here’s why parents (and kids!) love our Sea Squirts PFD
1. It’s US Coast Guard Approved.
The SwimWays Sea Squirts PFD is a US Coast Guard Certified Type III Personal Flotation Device just for kids. Buoyancy technology allows for successful balance of your child’s center of gravity, giving him or her greater control and stability in the water. Straps across the chest and between the legs ensure a snug fit, keeping the flotation aid in the correct position.
2. It’s comfortable.
The quality neoprene outer cover and inner fabric liner are extremely comfortable, offering freedom of movement and comfort for continuous wear in and around the water. The cute, flexible back fin is appealing to kids and naturally folds flat so they can sit comfortably in a boat or chair.
3. They want to wear it.
Sometimes they just don’t want to wear a flotation device; that’s where the Sea Squirts PFD with its flexible fish fin comes in. So suit ‘em up for added peace of mind and let their imaginations run wild!
The experts agree!
“The Sea Squirts PFD is simply the best flotation device on the market for a child” – Mario Vittone, former U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer and learn to swim expert.
What parents are saying:
We sent samples of our Sea Squirts PFD around the country to real parents, here’s what they had to say about it:
“Talon could not wait to hit the beach in his blue Sea Squirts PFD. Honestly; he spent the first two days wearing it around the house, chasing his sisters because he loved it so much! While he thinks he’s pretty cool with his fins, I’m happy to know he’s safe near the water!” – Stacey, thesimplemoms.com
“We bought a life jacket for him before our day trip to Destin, but he did not like it…it almost seemed like he felt he was being smothered in it. With the Sea Squirts life jacket, he has plenty of room around his neck to feel comfortable, while still keeping him safe.” – Lynn, thephotographerswife.com
Just because the water looks blue and clear doesn’t mean it’s in the best shape for a swim. There are water conditions besides blue and clear that can have a real effect on the healthy use of the water. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your pool water is at its best for all your little swimmers.
pH Balance and Disinfectants
pH is an indicator of water balance, which is an indicator of pool health. 7.2 to 7.8 is the safe range, but when bringing your kids in the water, especially infants and toddlers, you want the water to be ideal. The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) recommends 7.4 to 7.6 to keep eye irritation at a minimum. If your child’s eyes are stinging, they won’t be having fun and that makes learning much harder. With pH test strips, you can easily check your pool before each swim to make sure levels are optimal. The pH level also affects how well your disinfectant does its job of killing bacteria.
No matter which disinfectant you use for your pool (chlorine is the most common), having those chemicals at the proper level is also very important. Most people believe that when they smell chlorine there is too much in the pool, but that irritating chlorine smell is caused by the presence of chloramines, often caused by too little free chlorine in the water. When we go swimming, we bring any lotions and oils and even the sweat and dirt that’s on our skin into the water, and too much of it can overload the disinfectant in the water. Aquatics expert Dr. Tom Griffiths says, “If the free chlorine levels are not sufficiently high to oxidize these nitrogenous wastes, the free chlorine combines with them to form noxious chloramine compounds.”
To reduce the chance of excessive chloramines in your pool, be sure to keep disinfectant levels where they need to be. “Whenever someone calls me with a chloramine problem, I tell them they should maintain a free residual of 0.5 ppm higher than usual. This higher level of chlorine usually does the trick, says Griffiths. “Another remedy that is rarely used but very effective is to enforce soap showers prior to swimming. A soap shower will remove excess body oils and sweat and greatly reducing the amount of body waste going into the pool. Some pool chemists claim that if everyone showered prior to swimming, it would reduce the chlorine demand by 50%.”
How and When to Test
Know your system, and know the maintenance demands for it. “For most people it’s a time issue- they hire someone so they don’t have to learn the proper chemistry and maintain it. I use a professional kit and test for alkalinity, pH, free and total chlorine, and calcium,” says Kevin Richardson, owner of Clear Water Pools in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Pool owners can also take a water sample to a local pool company- they’ll test it and give you a printout with exactly what you need.”
But you’re going to want to do at least minimal testing yourself to make sure things are safe for your young swimmers. Richardson recommends using a test strip daily to check water balance, and at a bare minimum doing so once a week. The NSPF recommends taking a water sample to a professional for testing every four to six weeks. This ensures that your at-home assessments are accurate. Salt water systems can be harder to keep balanced, so be sure to check these per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Check the Temps
Until children are a year old, their ability to regulate body temperature may not be fully developed. So water temperature is very important when bringing your babies in the water. Dr. Howard Reinstein, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, believes that water temperature should be around 84 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit for babies to be comfortable. Watch them closely for signs of shivering and get them out if it begins. Too hot can be a problem as well- hot tubs over 100 degrees are off-limits for children under 5 years of age. They can easily overheat in those conditions so be aware of temperatures in your pools and spas.
So you see, it’s more than just clean and clear that matter when keeping your pool safe and healthy for your family. You want the water warm enough and balanced correctly to make sure that you get the most out of your pool without it taking too much out of you. If you want to know more about proper pool care and how to maintain your pool or spa at its best, the National Swimming Pool Foundation partnered with the American Red Cross to develop an excellent online training program for homeowners that contains a wealth of information about pool chemicals and filtration systems, testing and cleaning, and a very good section of general pool safety matters that all parents should know.
For a discount code and a link to the NSPF Home Pool Essential course (I took it!) visit the National Drowning Prevention Alliance website. Even old hands at pool care will learn a thing or two about safely operating a backyard pool.
Do you have any pool care questions? Join the discussion in the comments below.
Though I am embarrassed to admit it, I have never been able to help much with math homework. Sure, I’m a grown man and should know a few things, but advanced mathematics isn’t something I was ever good at. Regardless of my grasp of the basics, I am far out of my depth when it comes to anything beyond geometry and basic algebra. So when it comes to helping the kids, my wife and I call in a pro (a local math teacher who tutors on the side) – and I stay out of the way. This is a good idea.
Likewise, you may be comfortable introducing your kids to the water and teaching them to relax and float, but advanced swimming lessons are simply more than you can handle. That’s okay. If breath control and proper stroke technique have you scratching your head like – well, me with polynomial long division, here are some fundamentals for finding professional help.
1. Assess their commitment to safety and professional certification
Anyone serious about working with children in the water will have taken the time to get certified in CPR and first aid. At minimum, any swimming instructor should be certified in first aid, CPR, and lifeguarding. Another certification to look for is WSI or Water Safety Instruction. This is the American Red Cross’s designation of a swim instructor. You should have no hesitation in asking to see their credentials and a good instructor will have none in showing you them.
There are other professional affiliations and training certificates that you may see, including affiliation with the U.S. Swim Schools Association. Association with a professional organization doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it does let you know that the school or instructor you are considering takes their profession seriously and is working with other professionals to improve their craft, and member schools are rated for their experience and commitment to the continuing education of their staff.
2. Understand their approach to instruction
Ask the instructor, what is your approach to swim instruction? What do you try to accomplish? What you are looking for is an instructor who works to build fundamentals and build up skills progressively. You’re listening for words like “fundamentals” and “progression” and “developing confidence” when asking questions about the way they teach.
Be wary of any guarantees for how fast or slow your child’s skills in the water may develop. Experienced instructors understand that children are different and will have their own pace when learning to swim. That doesn’t mean that group instruction is better or worse than one-on-one lessons, but you want to be sure that swim instructors have an appropriate appreciation of your child’s individual needs.
3. Watch them with other kids
I know I have discussed the importance of being there and being comfortable with your children in the water, but sometimes your presence can distract them. At certain ages, kids learn faster, stay focused longer, and even complain less when mom and dad are out of sight. Some instructors have parents watching from a clandestine spot, and this is just fine. You should, of course, be able to watch lessons before you commit. When you do this, you are looking for some very specific things.
You want an instructor or instructional team who appears patient and looks comfortable interacting with children the same age as your child. You want to see if the students look engaged or bored. Are they excited to be there and having fun, or do they look like it is drudgery? While more fun equals more learning, don’t be too put off if the older kids look like they are doing some real work. What you are looking for as much as anything is the appearance that students like the instructors and vice versa.
The American Red Cross recommends no more than ten students for every instructor, so have a look at class sizes as well. Again, group instruction isn’t a bad thing and it can even be preferable at times to one-on-one instruction. Children can gain confidence from watching others their age swimming alongside. But, too many kids at a time is hard to manage on dry land, much less in the water.
4. The classroom matters
Nothing takes the fun out of swimming like chattering teeth in a pool that is too cold. Blue lips and shivering kids are a good sign that you should look somewhere else. The clarity and quality of the water are important as well. Water quality for your home pool is equally important for any pool where lessons are held. It matters for the safety of the kids and for the quality of the learning that will go on when they are there.
Burning eyes from improper pH levels can ruin a lesson quicker than anything, and you can forget the fun factor if lessons = discomfort for your kids. A properly run pool will look and smell clean and clear. If it isn’t a place you would love to swim, your kids won’t either.
I have several friends in the business of providing professional swim lessons and all of them are proud of what they do. When you ask them for references (and you should, of course) a good instructor will be thrilled to hand them over. You can ask the parents you see when you visit, but you also want to hear from the vets, whose children have been to the school and moved on.
My good friend Johnny Johnson of Blue Buoy Swim School in Tustin, California has taught generations of children and has a reputation spanning decades. Six of his students have competed in the Olympics! You should be so lucky to have a school like his nearby, but don’t be afraid of up-and-comers with a good reputation and the right credentials. Schools like Johnny’s have instructors who learn from the masters and move on to start their own schools in other markets. So if a friend of yours recommends a school that is maybe a bit too far from your home, you should ask them for a professional reference for an instructor in your area. Believe me, they’ll know who else is out there and will give you good advice.
Consider the five things listed above, ask good questions, and watch the instructors while they work. You’ll be well on your way to finding an instructor or swim school that is right for your child. In the end, you are looking for a place and for people that will help your child learn a skill for life. I don’t think it is a no-brainer decision, but it shouldn’t be as hard for you as trigonometry is for me.
Stay safe, have fun, and as always, I’d be glad to answer your questions in the comments below.