Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. On average, 3,533 people die as a result of drowning each year. Over the 2014 summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, at least 511 drowning incidents involving a child under the age of 18 were reported by media. Children ages five and under and teens ages 13-18 were the most high-risk groups.
Children under age five accounted for 45 percent of the reported incidents and teens accounted for 27 percent. The drowning risk was higher in males than females, with 62.7 percent of drowning incidents for kids under the age of five involving a male and 74.5 percent of drowning incidents for kids age 6 to 18 involving a male. The tragedy of these statistics is nearly all drowning deaths are preventable.
Parents need to be aware of their children’s swimming capabilities as well as their knowledge of how to be safe around water. One of the best ways parents can familiarize themselves with their children’s swimming capabilities is to ask their children to complete a few simple tests at the beginning and end of each swim season. Parents should also remember that even if their children can successfully complete the tests, year-round lessons help children maintain their swimming skills and build strength.
One of the skills parents should test for is the ability to flip and float. Any time a child enters a body of water unexpectedly, he or she should know to first reach the surface then flip onto his or her back and float until help arrives. Parents can test for this skill by asking kids to act out what they should do if they fall into the pool and cannot reach the side. Next, parents should have children demonstrate that they can find the side of the pool and safely exit.
Once a basis is established for these two self-rescue skills, parents can test to find out how much swimming stamina their children have. With the knowledge that a child can swim from one end of the pool to the other, parents can determine the proper response to enforce should the child accidentally fall into the pool: flipping to the back and floating, or swimming to the side.
While it may seem silly to kids, a very important and unique tests parents should have their children complete is jumping in the pool, swimming to the side, and exiting the pool while fully clothed. Children might be successful swimmers in their goggles and swimsuit, but if a child falls into the pool fully clothed, it can help to have some experience with knowing how to react to the weighted feeling.
By testing for these basic water skills, parents can identify where their children may need to improve their water safety knowledge and swimming skills.