Keep kids swimming- for smarts!

There are surprising benefits to year-round swim lessons.  As the weather turns cooler and summer ends, keep ’em swimming!  It can make their learning easier.

Research out of Australia   proves that children, who were taught to swim by 5 years, had statistically higher IQs.

Turns out, some of what you learn in the classroom (or in your day-to-day experiences) is similar to what you learn in a pool, says lead study author Robyn Jorgensen, Ph.D. is a professor and senior fellow at the Griffith Institute for Educational Research.

SWIMkids USA  provided data for this highly regarded study. Called the Early Years Swimming Research Project, it included date with 45-swim schools across the globe. Researchers surveyed the parents of more than 7,000 children age 5 and under and found that the age kids learned to swim correlated with when they began accomplishing certain skills.

5-Reasons to Swim for Smarts!

  • Jorgensen’s study found, the earlier the child started and the longer they remained in the swimming lessons, the greater the gains.
  • Kids who are taught to swim at an early age hit certain physical and developmental milestones faster than kids who learn later in life.
  • In pre-school, early swimmers had better visual-motor skills (like cutting paper and drawing lines and shapes), but also fared better as they got older (i.e. understanding directions, math, and writing and reading skills).
  • There’s a strong synergy between language and action with swimming that’s essential for many cognitive and motor skills as they grow older. Kids learn at an early age to hear language and make connections with their bodies (for example, counting to 10 while kicking).
  • It doesn’t take long to see the effects. When researchers observed swimming lessons, they found that the kids’ eyes blinked in preparation for the ready cue — “one, two, three, go! ” — a clear sign that young kids can understand language and react accordingly even if they can’t communicate everything clearly.

From swim lessons to swim teams, let us at SWIMkids USA know how we can help you with your child’s success!

SWIMkids USA  -where children love to learn.

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


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

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.