Ho Ho Holiday Gratitude

Happy December. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to you for making your family a part of our family!

Reflecting on the past year, we are tremendously grateful SWIMkids USA received numerous prestigious awards that distinguished our organization and our leadership as best-in-class.

We appreciate knowing these designations are validations that we’re on the right track with the specific methodology we follow to help children love to learn.

This year’s honors include:

  • 2015 Best Aquatic Program – Arizona Parks & Recreation Association
  • 2015 Most Admired Leader, Lana Whitehead – Phoenix Business Journal
  • 2015 Best Place to Work – The Arizona Republic
  • 2015 Best of Mesa Recreational Activity – East Valley Tribune newspaper
  • 2015 Safety Geek Award – Maricopa County Safe Kids Coalition
  • 2015 Adolph Kiefer Safety Commendation Award, Lana Whitehead – USA Swimming. (This highly prestigious honor from USA Swimming Convention goes to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to safe swimming in the United States.)

Here are more things we are grateful for!

Melissa Sutton: I am grateful for my family, health and work and for the heightened way that during the holiday season we often think of others. We try to visit family more often during this time or reach out to friends and family we haven’t spoken with in a while. When I was a child, we used to go out to the family’s 40 acres and spend hours searching for the perfect Christmas tree to cut down, haul back and set up in our living room.Those trips also included instructions on how to get the tree down (if in a dense part of the forest) and how to drag it out – especially on those instances we had hiked a mile in. And then, the decorating began! That was worth every moment of cold and hiking through snow up to my waist. Oh, how I loved to decorate the tree – and still do!

Nathan Askins: I am so grateful for all the wonderful families and children that I have been blessed to teach this year. They all have played such a wonderful part in my life and I am so happy to know all of them. On Christmas when I was a kid, my sisters and all my cousins would sleep over at my grandparents’ house. We would wake up early and my grandpa (who loved Christmas more than any kid) would line us up youngest to oldest. He would bring us to the door that led us to our Christmas present. He would let each child peek through the door for a millisecond, building up the anticipation before Christmas morning began!

Shaunna Risinger: I am grateful for my family. I am also grateful for being able to work with so many amazing families and little ones each day. I love my work family and I have the best boss anyone could ask for! My favorite would have to be road tripping to Arizona for Christmas with my family. I loved spending Christmases out here as I grew up in Michigan and loved packing shorts and t-shirts for a December/January trip. SO many great memories were made on these trips.

Britt Kimball: I am thankful for my job at SWIMkids USA because I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of my students. As an aquatic instructor, I equipped my students with the skills they need to be safer in an emergency. I taught them how to live active, healthy lives. I built muscle, smiles and brain power. I can share these ideals because Lana Whitehead has taught me how to articulate them. She started SWIMkids USA because water safety is her passion, which inspires my passion as well. I truly think that the curriculum she created is the best in the country

 

Baby CPR – These three things may surprise you!

When Amanda Acuna’s daughter was a baby, one minute her girl was eating Cheerios in her high chair and quick-as-a-wink, the next minute, her daughter was choking.

“I thankfully was able to quickly draw on specific choking management strategies I had learned in a CPR class,” Acuna recalls. “I was able to perform a series of back blows to dislodge the Cheerio.”

The hope is that we’ll never be put in the scary position of having to save a baby’s life, but the truth is there are many quick-as-a wink situations that can and do happen. Babies can and do choke on food or slip under the water in a pool or a bath tub, the list goes on.

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and it is a lifesaving procedure you can perform when an accident happens. CPR is often used in drowning and drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 in Arizona.

In addition to being a mom who expertly helped her child in a choking situation she is a master aquatics instructor, lead StarGuard/ASHI Trainer and CPR instructor for SWIMkids USA.

Here are the top three things she says often surprise parents about CPR.

1) CPR for infants is different than CPR for adults and children!
“That’s because all three have a different body-size and lung-size,” explains Acuna. “It’s important to choose a course that provides training for all three: infant, child and adult CPR (like we provide at SWIMkids USA ).”

2) Most CPR classes will also have a part about choking strategy.

3) CPR DOUBLES a person’s chance of survival in an emergency.
“When someone has an emergency where their heart can’t pump blood through their body efficiently, cells begin to die and brain cells die within minutes, resulting in permanent damage after only 4-6 minutes,” Acuna explains. “With effective CPR, a rescuer can move oxygenated blood to the brain to help those brain cells stay alive.”

CPR makes a difference. Be the one who makes a difference.

SWIMkids USA has a mission to save lives, and family education is a part of that. We encourage every family to provide layers of protection against drowning. These layers include supervision, barriers (like pool fences), swimming lessons, and CPR. Drowning incidents leading in death are greatly reduced when more layers of protection are in place. This is why we offer drowning prevention education, survival swimming lessons, and CPR classes.
Amanda Acuna teaching
<img src=”https://swimkidsusablog.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/infant-cpr-photo.

The Day They Went Under

Robbie and Kelsey at David's weddingYou would have thought I was opening a treasure chest.

My 3-year-old daughter, Kelsey and 4-year-old son, Robbie watched as I pulled clothes out of our suitcase. On top was Kelsey’s delicate lavender dress with its satin sash. Then, Robbie’s nice slacks and his little-boy-sized red tie. Tucked under them was the “treasure” they were really wanting. Their swim suits!

We had traveled to Park City, Utah to attend my brother’s wedding. The fancy clothes were for tomorrow’s festivities, but the swim suits were for now. We were going to the pool! Our home in Los Angeles did not have a swimming pool, but the mountain lodge we just checked into did.

I enjoyed hearing their giggles and splashing as they played. I sat in a chair on the edge, loving the mountain air. How cute they were! Without a care in the world, I was happily watching their joy.

What happened next unfolded quickly.

They moved into a deeper area of the pool than they had previously been playing in. They were holding the edge. They let go and paddled out to deep water, then went straight down. I’ll never know why it happened. I’m guessing they were frightened or felt panic. For whatever reason they could not get back up for air.

Fully clothed, I went in after them. I am truly grateful that I’m a former competitive swimmer for whom swimming is my lifelong love. I was also a professional lifeguard for several years. I knew what to look for and could discern quickly that they were not joking around. Their drowning was absolutely silent.

My denim jacket had a padded/quilted lining and the longer I was under the heavier it got. Why I didn’t cast it off prior to jumping in is a question I ask of myself. Thankfully, lifeguard training prepared me to do a rescue while fully-clothed.

If you are the designated water watcher this summer, please take minute to read these 5-tips from Lana Whitehead, founder of SWIMkids USA.   Lana is the recipient of a 2014 Health Care Hero award from the Phoenix Business Journal for the impact she has had on educating our community about the dangers of drowning.

Water watcher tips:

  • Young children require close supervision. How close? “It should be within an arm’s length,” Lana says.
  • It is best is to be in the water with the child. “That way you have your ears, your eyes, and the tactile benefit of feeling the turbulence of the water if the child is struggling,” Lana explains.
  • If you cannot be in the water, sit on the side with your feet dangling in the pool.
  • A designated adult should be watching children at all times with no distractions. SWIMkids USA provides free water watcher wrist bands that say “I’m in charge! Lifeguard on duty” to anyone who would like one.
  • Switch the person who is watching the swimmers every 15 minutes. This person must know how to swim.

The chance for distraction is great when the sun is shining and the kids are having fun. But, think of the image of a professional lifeguard. It is not the same as babysitting. A designated lifeguard is never involved in any other activity such as reading, playing cards, talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn while supervising children.

My children came up coughing-up water and crying. They were successfully rescued. They say today that they learned a valuable lesson from the experience. I also thought about how I had Kelsey in dance lessons and Robbie did baseball (T-ball). After that, I made time in their afternoons for more swim lessons.

To get your free water watcher wrist band contact SWIMkids USA at (480) 820-9109. Or visit their website for contact here: SWIMkids USA

For more information about water safety read this from the Centers for Disease Control.

CDC Water Safety Information

Your Swimmer is Going to be a Brainiac!

Can you say, SCHOLARSHIP?

Our job teaching students at SWIMkids USA is so worth it. We’re both saving lives and preparing our students for successful college careers.

Wait a second. That seems like an awful lot to assert, right? Wrong!

From 2009 to 2013, researchers from Griffith University collected data from our swim school students (as well as little swimmers from Australia and New Zealand), and what they discovered is truly amazing.

On average, early swimmers are seven months ahead of their peers in motor achievement, as well as 10 months ahead both cognitively and linguistically. So that means: advanced development in locomotion, grasping skills and visual motor integration. Cognitively and linguistically, the early-developed abilities include better mathematic reasoning, reading and comprehension skills as well as an improved ability to recall short stories and to listen and follow directions. Check out the official report here.

When your kids are finally ready for their first day of kindergarten, they’ll be miles ahead of their classmates.

But the crucial advantages don’t stop there!

Did you know there are a ton of swimming scholarships available?

That’s right. If you start your kids in swimming early, then they have a serious chance at knocking out collegiate debt.

Swimming doesn’t just save lives- it saves money in the long run, and it grows the brain!

Swimming at Home: Watch those Bad Habits!

With record temperatures scorching the Valley, there isn’t much to do outside besides swimming.

When you swim at home, it’s important to remember (and practice!) the techniques that your child learned with us at SWIMkids USA. Yes, pool time should be fun, but it’s important to avoid these common mistakes at all costs.

  1. Using floaties. This factor is so important that we’re covering it twice! If you keep up with the blog, you already know that water wings are dangerous. They give your child a false sense of security, and force your child to swim in a vertical position. But why is vertical swimming an issue, you ask? It’s how people drown. Check out the video below for a better understanding, and use a properly fitting life jacket instead.
  2. The “Jump to Me!” game. We get it. It’s hot outside, and you want to cool off with the kiddos! You can feel yourself sweating, so you hop in the pool in a jiffy. Before long, the little ones are trying to launch into your arms from the side of the pool. Bad idea. The “jump to me” game teaches the child that the way to safety is to the center of the pool, rather than back to the wall or rolling to their back float. They have fun jumping in, but as far as survival is concerned, 100% of the work is being done by the person they are jumping in to. If they’re always playing like this with you, will they think twice about jumping in without you?
  3. Forming bad habits. It’s great to have fun in the pool, but make sure that your children are practicing the techniques they learned in class!  Vertical swimming is typically the start of the drowning process. It is the opposite of being safe.  It leads to exhaustion, usually followed by inhalation of water.  We recommend you have “practice” before play time, even if it is just a few minutes, or often times your child will have the expectation that swim class is suppose to be all play and no work. It’s vital that they associate their swim skills with ANY body of water, rather than just the SWIMkids USA practice pools.

 

Practice: Touch Supervision, Designated Water Watcher

Of course, we’ve already discussed the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “layers of protection,” and now it’s time for us to explore touch supervision and the role of the designated water watcher.

Together, we can prevent drownings worldwide. You just have to follow a few steps. (Check out Banner Health’s comprehensive check list here.)

Touch Supervision

Drowning is silent. As a swim instructor with over eight years of experience, I can’t tell you how many times parents have told me about the close calls they’ve had in the family pool. It happens all the time! You look down to answer a text, or turn your head to talk to a friend, and in just a few seconds, your little one could be struggling under water without a sound. After about four minutes, permanent brain damage occurs, and death can occur as soon as four to six minutes. Never leave your child’s side around water.

To keep your kids safe at all times, you must practice touch supervision. This means you should be only an arm’s length away from your children at all times, around any open water. (That means pools, lakes, bathtubs, etc.) After all, if your kid slips under the water, the fastest way to get them out is to grab them!

Please, take a look at the video below. Even though the infant is wearing a life jacket, he could have drowned without the immediate help from his dad.

The Designated Water Watcher

Whether you are at home, a family barbecue or a friend’s pool, it’s vitally important to have a designated water watcher. This person needs to constantly have their eyes on the children in the water. Give them a wristband with a whistle on it, like this one. If they need to take a break, be absolutely certain to pass the whistle and the duty to another vigilant person who knows exactly what he or she needs to do!

The Mesa Fire and Medical Department made an informative video of what it means to be a designated water watcher. Check it out, and be sure to embrace the steps they outline. Although the thumbnail depicts a child in floaties, the video clearly states that wearing floaties is an unsafe practice, as it provides the child with a false sense of confidence. 

Do you have a testimony of how touch supervision or a designated water watcher saved your child’s life? Please leave a comment below.

Sarah has taught swim lessons with us for over eight years. This is a photo from her daughter, Rylee's, first lesson!

Sarah has been an instructor with us for over eight years. This is a photo from her daughter’s first swim lesson!

How To: Practice Layers of Drowning Prevention

Unfortunately, we’re off to a rough start with drowning incidents this year. A pool is 100 times more likely to kill a child than a gun. According to City of Phoenix statistics, there have been 13 drowning incidents, which resulted in four fatalities– two adults and two children.

It’s vitally important to watch your children around water. That means not only around pools, but also buckets and bathtubs. Simply covering your pool is not enough, as was sadly proven when two twin girls drowned on top of a pool cover that had filled with rain.

At SWIMkids USA, our first priority is to give little ones the skills they need to save themselves in an emergency. To do so, we teach to mastery, and practice something the National Drowning Prevention Alliance calls “layers of protection.”

 We’ve probably scared you by now. So, what are the layers of protection, and how can you implement them? Here’s an easy-to-understand drowning prevention guideline. (Note: this is a simplified version of the NDPA’s guide.)

  1. Supervise at all times. It’s obvious that you need to constantly watch your kids around water to keep them safe. However, you need to supervise them even when you aren’t participating in aquatic activities. Always know where your children are, and always be aware of potential dangers in unfamiliar environments- such as a friend’s house. If you can’t locate your little one, always check the pool or spa first. See the video above for a more in-depth explanation.
  2. Install physical layers limiting access to pool areas. This means putting a fence around your yard, and enclosing your pool. The pool enclosure should have a self-latching gate that latches at least 54″ above the ground, preferably with a lock. Make a rule to never, under any circumstances, prop open the gate for any reason. Be sure to place all patio furniture, garden items and play structures at least 4 feet from the wall to prevent climbing over the fence. Additionally, place a cover over your pool.
  3. Invest in an alarm system. Doors and windows with access to the pool area should have alarms to warn adults about potential outside activity. Water (surface and subsurface) alarms can be placed in the pool, and they will alert you when the water has been disturbed.  In addition, install a lock that is out of reach of children on the doorway leading to the pool.
  4. Learn CPR and rescue breathing. Mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Here at SWIMkids USA, we offer community CPR certification so you can equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to save someone’s life.
  5. Enroll in swim lessons. Everyone should know how to swim! And once your kids begin to learn, don’t stop. In order to retain swimming ability, you have to use it.

We hope this short guide helps you understand that we need to practice layers of protection all year long! Please keep your kids safe around water, and help us make this Arizona’s safest year yet.