Early splash: Program teaches infants water skills

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 7, 2018

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Splashing Along

SPLASHING ALONG – Charlie Low swims to the side of the pool during a lesson at Fit-N-Wise. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Jaci Christian watched from the side of the Fit-N-Wise pool as her 1-year-old son Lane fell backward in the pool Monday morning, before he instinctively started kicking his little legs to stay afloat. Instructor Kim Emery then reached under Lane to guide him through the water.

“It’s kind of tough love on the mom’s part,” Christian said. “You know it’s best for them.”

Lane along with Lauren Low’s daughter Audrey spent part of the morning continuing their infant aquatic survival class at Fit-N-Wise. Emery teaches children ages 6 months to 3 years how to stay afloat in the water along with basic swimming.

“I started this because we needed to offer more than basic parent-child class,” said Emery, who has been teaching the class for 10 years. She’s in her 18th year at Fit-N-Wise.

“It’s teaching the skills to rollover and float should a child jump in or fall into the water. Then teaching the skills to swim, float, swim.”

Emery said the introductory program teaches a “good balance of swim skills.”

Not Ready to Start

NOT READY TO START – Lane Christian voices his thoughts before gettting in the pool for a lesson at Fit-N-Wise. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Many of Emery’s clients for the program own pools or have family members with pools and want the added safeguard of their children learning the water safety skills. According to the non-profit Safe Kids Worldwide, 800 children in the U.S. drown annually. The Center for Disease Control reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 to 4.

Lessons stretch four to six weeks. Children are in the water for 10 to 12 minutes up to four times per week with Emery.

“Ten to 12 minutes to a baby or infant is like a 45-minute workout for an adult,” Emery said. “I’m watching very closely for them swallowing water. I’m watching for all the safety factors.”

At the end of the six-week session, Emery brings the child into the water with all their clothes on to see if they can perform all the skills.

Emery’s goal is get the child and parent comfortable around the water.

“It’s hard on the parents,” Emery said. “There’s been a lot of times where the parent wants to jump right in.”

Emery has the parent or caregiver get in the water with the child the first two days to help acclimate them with her.

“Then I only have the parent in as needed,” Emery said. “I wouldn’t say they are scared, but they are having to do skills they’ve not done before.”

She admits tears are not unusual until the child builds the skills and confidence.

Low’s daughter is her second child to work with Emery. Her son, Charlie, who was getting a refresher Monday, started with Emery a couple of years ago.

“It’s the best investment we could have made,” Low said.

“You still watch your children in the water, but you have this in your back packet. Instead of guarding them, you’re protecting them and teaching them how to do it.”

Christian has been amazed about how adept her son has become in the pool. She said she swam underneath him with a GoPro and could see him using the skills he’s learned.

The program ranges in price from $275 for four weeks to $410 for six. There is also a $45 registration fee.

No matter the program, Emery encourages adults and children alike to learn to swim.

“It would be nice to have every single child be able to learn how to swim or at least save themselves if they fell in the water,” Emery said.

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