Children can be very enthusiastic about playtime in the water but for parents, safety is a major concern. It is one of the main reasons why parents decide to send their children for swimming lessons.
However, knowing how to swim does not necessarily mean that a child would know what to do when they get into trouble in the water. As parents, it is important that we also enable our children to learn water safety and personal survival skills as a complementary skill to swimming proficiency.
“There is no specific age at which a child should start their swimming lessons – it is all up to the child and parent,” says Simon Tan, Deputy Director, Programming, Club Design and Planning, Active SG at Sport Singapore. “But as they are learning how to swim, children should also be progressively learning water safety and personal lifesaving skills alongside developing their swimming proficiency.”
In looking for a programme to teach these skills to your child, it is important that the lessons are progressive, fun and safe to ensure maximum benefit for your child, he says. The whole idea is to equip your child with important skills that last a lifetime.
It is advisable to introduce children to the concept of water safety as early as possible and teach them water survival skills that are developmentally appropriate. A progressive water safety programme ensures a gradual flow of understanding towards the next level of learning. Especially for younger children, progressive learning allows skills taught to be constantly built upon and reinforced.
The programme should also allow children to actively participate in activities, but with gentle guidance from the coach or parent. It should also put in place proper assessments to ascertain whether or not a child is able to perform skills in a satisfactory level before moving on to more difficult and complex activities. In addition to physical development, progressive learning fosters greater intellectual competence in children as it helps with the development of long-term retention and muscle memory.
Fun and Safety
Studies have shown that emotions can improve memory – so the more fun a lesson, the more engaging and memorable it will be for a child. It is thus important to look for a fun, positive and safe learning environment. Check that the instructor is properly certified by a reputable organisation or programme. It also helps if the instructor possesses a friendly and professional nature and is highly qualified to teach as well as nurture each child’s progress.
A fun environment would greatly reinforce your child’s emotional well being by positively affecting their confidence, trust, self-esteem and ability to cope with different situations. This is especially important in the early years when the brain is still developing.
Also, look for classes that have a smaller instructor to student ratio, 1:10 or less, to ensure that your child gets the necessary attention and instruction. Children learn skills best when they are taught at a comfortable pace, so opt for a programme that tailors the teaching approach so that your child can learn safely at his or her own pace.
SwimSafer, Singapore’s national water safety programme
SwimSafer is a national water safety programme that comes under the umbrella of ActiveSG, a key element of the Vision2030 sports master plan. It is a progressive six-stage programme that incorporates the essential elements of swimming, water survival and life saving skills to teach children to react appropriately when faced with sudden and adverse aquatic situations.
The SwimSafer programme consists of 6 progressive stages with 12 hours of lesson time per stage. The 6 stages are as follows:
1. Stage 1: Introduction to Water Skills
2. Stage 2: Fundamental Water Skills
3. Stage 3: Personal and Stroke Development Skills
4. Bronze Stage: Personal Survival and Stroke Improvement Skills
5. Silver Stage: Intermediate Personal Survival and Stroke Refinement Skills
6. Gold Stage: Advanced Personal Survival and Swimming Skills Proficiency
At the end of each stage, each child will receive a stage completion certificate indicating their individual skill achievements. A badge will also be awarded upon the completion of each stage.
“It is important to ensure that parents choose a programme that is conducted by a certified SwimSafer instructor,” says Tan. “We have over 800 certified instructors, and the list can be found on the ActiveSG website. Most of them hold classes at the various ActiveSG swimming complexes located around Singapore.”
As presenting sponsor for SwimSafer, Manulife Singapore will be working closely with ActiveSG to promote the importance of water safety in the community and in schools.
Images courtesy of Sport Singapore