I remember the first time I ever saw the horror. The mom-to-be sat in the center opening gifts and we watched and “Oooooooohed” and “Aaaaaaaahed” as she unwrapped all of the cuteness. She held a large rubber ducky bag in her lap and pulled out a pair of mermaid arm floaties. I cringed. “So cute,” I heard someone say. Yea, I thought, cute until they pop and your child goes under water. I know the idea is to keep kids safe, but those floaties represent the opposite of water safety.
The next item out of the bag was a visor, which I assumed was to keep the sun off the precious newborn’s delicate face. Then I heard the terrible words, “It’s a bath visor!”
I was speechless. “Wait…Whaaaaaat?”
“It’s to protect the baby’s face from the water.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The words spilled out of my mouth: “Why would you protect her face from water? It is just water. The baby has been in liquid. She’s in liquid right now.”
The woman was not expecting someone to protest her genius water baby gadgets. I, on the other hand, know that learning to swim accelerates physical, intellectual and emotional development. And these simple, seemingly thoughtful gifts could potentially ruin this unborn child’s relationship with water.
She explained, “My sister tried pouring water over her baby’s head and he hated it. So, now she uses a visor and he never has to get water on his face.”
“Ummmmmm…” In my mind, I grabbed the visor and slapped the gift-giver across her dumb face with it.
Ok, she’s not dumb. But the idea of using a visor, washcloth, towel or anything else to shield your child’s face from water is not a smart idea. I always stress the importance of constant, active, adult supervision as the most important component in drowning prevention. I also discuss proper barriers such as fences, gates, alarms and covers. But arm floaties and bath visors?!
Please understand that although you may think you are helping, you are doing your child a serious disservice by ‘protecting’ his or her face from the water. Water is a huge, destructive force of nature, but it is also calming, therapeutic and magical. In order to survive in water, one must have a healthy respect for it, so it’s best to teach your children in a controlled, safe environment.
- Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged 1-4 years. – Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
Eighty-eight percent! Trust me, formal swimming lessons involve putting your face in the water. No matter what age or ability I’m teaching, I start every single lesson with water on the face. I don’t care if your 4, 14, 40 or 84. You need to be comfortable with water on your face.
You can save yourself a lot of time, money and tears if you follow these basic steps. Trust me, your future swim instructor will thank you. Remember, these are lifesaving skills that your children will use for the rest of their lives.
Water Safety Skill #1: Getting your face wet
If your child is apprehensive, it’s especially important to make them comfortable. Start with the temperature of the water. Putting your face in water that is too cold or too hot is not only uncomfortable but also unsafe. I teach in pools that are 85-93 degrees. The bath is the perfect place to start.
– Use the cue “1, 2, 3, Ready, Go” to gently pour a cup of water on your child’s arms. Repeat the cue to pour water on the shoulders, back, belly, then over the head. Let water trickle down the face. Use the same cue every time. Do not use a towel or visor to wipe their eyes. Simply have them blink the water out.
Water Safety Skill #2: Blowing bubbles
Start by gently blowing on each other’s fingers, like blowing out a birthday candle or blowing on hot food. Blow bubbles with a soap wand. Next, inhale out of the water, and then exhale the breath into the water to create bubbles.
Show your children these skills. Pour water on your head. Put your face in the water. Blow bubbles. Laugh. Have fun! It is just water.
This isn’t the only way to teach swimming, but it works for me after 25 years of trial and error. I believe in these skills so much that I recently collaborated on a children’s book called Life with Lou, which breaks down these 10 basic swimming and water safety skills and makes them accessible to everyone. Stay tuned as I go over the rest of the skills throughout May for Water Safety Month.
Visit my Facebook page, Face in Water, for more tips, tricks, pictures of the skills and Life with Lou book and Parent Guide purchases.
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