By Gaye Bunderson
When asked if her kids wanted to take swim lessons, mom Hilary Baird replied, “They wanted to learn to swim, but they’ve always been afraid of the water.” That’s all changing now that the kids take swimming lessons together at Goldfish Swim School in Boise. The foursome of siblings go to class together, but each is placed in his or her own skill level with teachers who understand that children learning to navigate water safely need patient instruction.
“This place inspires confidence, and the swim instructors are encouraging. They’re so good about working with the kids where they’re at,” said Baird, who had taken her kids to other swim schools, where she felt they were pushed to perform faster than they were ready for.
“I’ve had to step up and tell [the other] instructors that my kids were scared and not to do that,” she said.
Her kids started their lessons at Goldfish in February. They are: Gabriel, 12; Calvin, 9; Hazel, 7; and Tosh, 5. The three older kids can swim already, while the youngest can dog paddle and keep himself above water. Not only are they preparing for next summer, but they have found their swim classes helped them this past summer as well.
“Last summer, in 2020, they were all scared; but this year, we’ve gone to rivers and lakes, and they all jump right in,” said their mother.
They’re not as nervous around water and neither is their mom, who no longer felt anxious when her youngsters got too close to water’s edge.
The swim lessons met the family’s goals for water safety but also provided benefits beyond that. “They learn basic skills, get exercise, and gain confidence to know they can learn things that once scared them. They also know their limits,” Baird said.
But swimming is just a summer thing, right? Not necessarily. Many places offer swimming year-round. Kids may swim at the Y or at places such as the Nampa Recreation Center when the weather starts to get too cool, and though autumn and winter are making their way toward the Valley, it’s still a good time for swim lessons.
“The importance of teaching water safety isn’t something that’s one-and-done,” Emily Wyckoff, Boise owner of Goldfish Swim School, said. “Repetition is key when learning anything, including swimming. By continuing swim lessons all year long, students don’t lose any of what they’ve been learning, and instead they advance even further in what skills they accomplish. Additionally, as colder weather approaches, indoor swim lessons in 90-degree water are a great way to keep children active in a warm environment.”
The four Baird kids will be continuing their swimming lessons through the winter months and will be all the more eager to swim outdoors during summer 2022.
Protect your kids
Five water safety tips for youngsters
Note: The water safety tips below were provided by Emily Wyckoff, Boise owner of Goldfish Swim School.
• Enroll in swim lessons: One of the best ways to protect your children against drowning is to improve comfort level in the water and strengthen swimming capabilities through swim lessons. Lessons help increase muscle memory by practicing basic techniques for kids to use during a water emergency, such as the crab walk, properly getting in and out of the pool, going under water, rolling on their back, treading water, learning different strokes, etc.
As a result of the increased threat in childhood drownings, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids continue to safely participate in organized drowning prevention classes despite the COVID-19 health crisis, as swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88%. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children start taking lessons as young as 1-year-old to learn water safety basics.
• Never swim alone: While many of our young ones think they’re all grown up and don’t need a swim buddy, you can re-enforce this rule by explaining the rule goes for kids and adults alike. Teach your children to always have a buddy in the water – whether it be an adult or peer – at the beach, on vacation, or at home.
• Wear a U.S. Coastguard-approved lifejacket: Having a proper floatation device is one of the easiest ways to increase safety in the water [search for the United States Coast Guard approval on it]. Pay attention to proper fit – the fit matters, because if your head or ears can slip down beneath the life jacket, the device won’t be able to work as designed to keep your head above water and allow for proper breathing. A U.S. Coastguard-approved lifejacket is especially important when swimming in lakes and oceans when water conditions can be uncertain and unpredictable.
• Designate a Water Guardian: Make sure to keep your eyes on your kids at all times – even if lifeguards are present. Kids are as curious as they come and are always willing to push the limits without knowing the true hazards. Designate an adult “Water Guardian” and be sure to change guardians every 30 minutes so he/she is alert and refreshed. A Water Guardian’s sole responsibility needs to be keeping an eye on the swimmers. Vigilance is key – no chatting, no checking your phone, no distractions.
• Play it cool and follow the rules: Sometimes when our little ones are in play-mode, rules fall by the wayside. Review rules together as a family before letting your kids loose to enjoy the water. If at a public pool or on vacation, pay special attention to pool hours, and always schedule your swims when lifeguards are present, if possible.