With summer heat on its way, thousands of Oklahomans will look to cool off with a dip in the closest body of water. When it comes to teaching children to swim how early is too early?
At the YMCA of Oklahoma, the answer is it's never too soon. Lessons there start for infants that are 6-months-old.
“They're not too far removed from being in a water environment anyway, so it's really a great time to get them in and being comfortable in the water,” said Bryan Heathcock, Aquatic Director at the Mitch Park & Rankin YMCA in Edmond.
The early swimmer lessons, ages 6-months to 3-years-old are just the basics like what water feels like, how to kick, how to blow bubbles and how to roll over. But the lessons are just as much for the parents as they are for the kids.
“A lot of times it's really about the parents. On what's a safe way to enter the pool? What's a safe way to have your 6-month-old exit the pool?” Heathcock said.
According the American Pediatric Association drowning is the number one killer of children ages 1 to 4 and those numbers spike during the summer months.
Experts like OU Medical Center Injury Prevention Coordinator Laura Gamino suggest designating a "water watcher" at pool parties or outings by using a name card or lanyard that kids and adults will know. Although she said she prefers something a little shadier; a floppy sun hat adorned in a pink flower lei and animal clips.
“I like something really highly visible like a water watcher hat and so like when I'm wearing this and the children know and everybody knows that I'm the water watcher and that they won't bother me, they won’t text me, they won’t talk to me.”
Drowning is an often-misunderstood cause of death Gamino said. On average, it takes roughly 3 to 4 minutes for a person to drown. Water can fill and block a person’s wind pipe in as quick as 20 seconds, making the process of drowning silent.
“Drowning is very sudden and silent. People think they'll hear splashing and calling for help and that's not the way it is. It's too late. People just drop,” she said.
While there's no real way to make children drown-proof, Gamino added, being safe in and around the water is a good place to start.
“The earlier we can get them in the water the more comfortable they will be and the more that they will be safe and be lifelong swimmers,” said Heathcock.