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Dos and Don’ts of Swimming

With nearly 40 years in the learn-to-swim world, LPB has seen it all when it comes to methods of education and contraptions for keeping kids safe in and around water. And every year, as summer approaches, Facebook and other social media outlets help us remember that not all of the options are great ones.

Don’t:
Rely on inflatable water wings. Here’s one of our favorite video clips about how inflatable water wings are just more trouble than they’re worth:

In all seriousness, inflatable water wings are not at all dependable for keeping your child safe in the water. They can easily deflate and/or slip off of your child, which may lead to a distressed swimmer situation or worse.

Do:
If you are in need of a floatation device for moving water (lakes, rivers, streams, or ocean swimming OR wading), we suggest something like the “puddle-jumper” that goes around the child’s torso and arms, or a US Coast Guard approved life jacket. Neither are great for swimming - they force students into a vertical position, which is not conducive to actual swimming - but they are dependable safety devices.

Don’t:
Sign your child up for Infant Self Rescue (aka ISR, “drown-proofing” or “survival” classes). We’ve all seen the video of a toddler wandering out to the pool, falling in and miraculously rolling over onto his back and floating until help arrives. We shudder at the idea of anyone counting on this as a reliable method of keeping your child safe. There are just too many variables (head bumps, disorientation, crying from pain = not having breath control for floating). Plus, the method for teaching ISR is, well, awful. Repeated falls into the water and forced rollovers cause a lot of water to be inhaled and ingested. Parents are advised to have their students sleep on their sides after their lesson just in case they vomit in their sleep.

Do:
Insist on the Safer 3 method of keeping kids safeR around water.

  • Safer Response: parental supervision, making sure caregivers know how to swim and can perform CPR
  • Safer Water: barriers for all pools, hot tubs, fountains, etc…don't forget to empty dog bowls, buckets, etc!
  • Safer Kids: regular, year round swim lessons can give your child a healthy respect for the water while teaching them how to hold their breath which can buy you precious seconds!

Don’t:
Use tubes around your baby’s neck to allow them to float. This is another video that pops up on Facebook every few months:

Sure, they don’t seem distressed, but the neck float is hardly serving a purpose. Plus, they’re missing the second-most important thing to them: touch.

Do:
Hold and love on your baby when in water. Babies THRIVE with eye- and skin-to-skin contact. Eye contact is how babies know they exist. Skin-to-skin contact helps them feel safe and secure. Babies need that connection to their adult humans in order to grow and learn.

Don’t:
Jump into private lessons. This may not be the best sales pitch for a business, but there are really only a few instances when private lessons are ideal: Students who are close to their next ribbon or who want to fine-tune their strokes before moving onto advanced swimming courses can benefit from a few private lessons. Or kids who, for safety reasons, need a teacher’s undivided attention. Some children with developmental delays or sensory processing issues cannot be mainstreamed safely, so private lessons are the safest option for them. Semi-private lessons are also a great way to go for parents of multiples (or two under 3) who don’t have another adult who can get into the water.

Do:
Go with the group. Kids have fun when they swim together! Peer pressure can be helpful in getting students to continue to progress and burnout and boredom are much more common in private lessons (no turn-waiting and talking to a grown up for 30-minutes isn’t exactly fun). Also, swimming lessons are a great place to learn other important life lessons like waiting your turn, following directions and good sportsmanship. Plus, when kids are having fun and playing with other kids, even their language becomes more advanced.