AIBU to think swimming is a basic skill for children?

(86 Posts)
whistleahappytune Thu 07-Mar-13 10:02:59

A friend of mine has DD (8) who can't swim. I don't mean she can't swim well, I mean at all. AIBU to be a bit shocked by this? I always thought it was an essential skill to learn. I only learned this because I invited her DD to a sailing event for kids, and of course she can't go because they need to be able to swim. Her mum was very blah about it and said there was no time and her DD would learn when she was ready. Huh? This is a child who does every activity going - every day after school there's some club or something, plus at weekends.

Yes I do know it's none of my business and I should unhoick my judgypants. But what do MNers think?

Fillyjonk75 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:11:15

I very much doubt many even very good swimmers could save someone's life by diving in after them. Better to know what to do in an emergency, often it is best NOT to jump in after someone, however good a swimmer you are. There are too many stories where the would be rescuer has died while the original person was rescued by a professional.

DSs got a term in Year 3 and a Term in year 4 of swimming. Not long enough to teach anyone to swim IMO.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:37

I did post right at the start of the thread. (My personal circumstances are that we live near the sea and I think we'd be daft not to give DD a way of helping herself should she ever get into difficulty, as a quick recap.)

There are a few things that occurred to me reading the thread.

Firstly, I too would like to see the stats on over-confident children getting into trouble. I do also think though that part of teaching your kids how to be safe in water is respect for water. I see it the same way as I do teaching dd to be safe around dogs. She loves dogs, gives ours huge hugs, so part of my job as her parent to keep her safe is teaching her to ask other people before she approaches their dog, and teaching her that not all dogs like to be touched etc. So every time we go swimming I also remind her that she's not to go swimming if there isn't anyone around, for example.
Neither do I see it as acceptable to stop watching her like a hawk because she can swim a few strokes. Adults who are good swimmers drown. Someone mentioned kids getting into trouble while parents sat around reading and trusting they could swim (paraphrasing madly I know, because I can't remember exactly how it was phrased). Well, more fool you as a parent if that's your attitude. Teaching your child to swim is not and should never be a replacement for supervision.

Also, there are people confidently claiming they don't live near any body of water. Well, I do see it as even more important to learn if you live near something obvious like a lake or the sea. But I wouldn't be too complacent about not living near one. As an example, at a zoo we were at fairly recently a four year old climbed a barrier and fell into the penguin pool. Now, the same arguments as above apply - supervision was obviously lacking if the kid had time to do that etc etc. The fact remains though that she was suddenly submersed in water. A member of the public went in for her. Thing is, mostly people in that situation look for a keeper rather than act. If there isn't one about, you don't have much time. Those extra few seconds where your child doesn't panic because they know the feeling of being underwater might give you a few precious extra seconds while someone reacts (looks for a keeper, realises there isn't anyone, looks to see what other people are doing, realises no-one is acting and takes action). If you go to the zoo, look at the number of enclosures surrounded by water. I'll bet most of them are safely fenced, but I'll also bet that most of those barriers are climbed on by kids at some point, not to climb over but to get a better look. One missed step and there's your accident. My point is there are more bodies of water around than you think, in unlikely places. Saying "I don't live near one so it's not a problem" is just as complacent, in my view, as saying "my child can swim therefore I don't need to watch them."

However, I do think some really valid points have been raised. Health issues which might affect things, money is obviously a key one (I'm bloody lucky - grandparents pay for dd's lessons or we'd be struggling to scrape the cash together), access is also clearly going to be critical. I just happen to think that if all these are not relevant, and of course you can never be sure if they are, then yes, you're a bit daft not to teach your kid to swim.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 20:37:55

Gosh, that was long.
Sorry folks.

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:46:03

My fb was always an excellent swimmer. However he drowned aged 17 whilst swimming in a manmade lake many years ago sad

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:47:50

Oops silly predictive text! Meant dn!

chocoholic05 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:50:06

Nephew that is! :'(

pixi2 Thu 07-Mar-13 20:55:39

I think basic swimming skills are a must. I am a terrible swimmer despite years of private lessons.

Ds is having lessons at 3. He can't start horse riding until 4 or rugby until 6 (these are his choices). So until he is old enough he can learn to swim. Tried dd but she isn't ready yet.

frillynat81 Thu 07-Mar-13 21:03:38

YANBU. My son has been going to swimming lessons every week since he was 4 and he is 7 now. I think it is extremely important.

carrie74 Thu 07-Mar-13 21:30:50

Personally I think it's a life skill to be able to keep safe in the water. I was taught survival swimming techniques a the age of 2, after my parents had suffered the drowning of their son at age 3. The way I was taught (and I'm not convinced it was the best way, but it worked) was to be thrown into the deep end by a teacher to find my SA to the side of the pool.

Both of my children have been swimming since they were newborns, with formal lessons eventually (Thing 2 only in YR, but Thng 1 I started as a toddler). Although they're improving, I'm not convinced they could keep themselves safe, and to me this is a major flaw in lessons in this country. The very first thing children should be taught is how to tread water and get to the side, not how to perfect their front crawl arms IMO.

babybythesea Thu 07-Mar-13 22:38:38

Carrie - how very sad for your parents.

I think it must vary a bit depending on where you go though, in terms of what is taught.
Most of the things that dd has learnt in her early lessons have been about safety rather than technique.
So for example she was initially (from a few months old when we started going) taught to get into the water by lying on her tummy on the poolside and wriggling in backwards - the theory being that if she was ever near a pool and tried to get in, she'd probably do the same thing through habit, youd be able to clearly see what she was doing and you had a few seconds to get to her and stop her!
When we progressed to jumping in, one of the things she's been taught is how to turn round and head back for the side. So you jump (or fall) in, you kick your way up, look for the side and head to it. She's also been taught, right from the start, that if she can't climb out then she can 'walk' her way round the pool, using her hands on the side of the pool to shuffle along until she reaches a shallower bit or some steps. No help in the sea clearly but it's something.

Certainly the bit about kicking back to the surface, turning on and holding round has stuck. I mentioned earlier that when she did indeed fall into a pool (I was there, in the water, and reached her quickly) she reacted without any panic, her head appeared above water, she turned, and was grabbing for the side. Result. I don't for one moment delude myself that that means she is totally water safe - she's competent enough for her age but isn't yet quite ready for the Olympics! (she's four). But I am reassured enough that were she to fall in by accident, she is familiar enough with being in water, and has had enough teaching in what to do (our teacher is very explicit about it and says to the children every week "This is what you need to do if you fall into the water" before making them practise it) to be able to hold on for the few extra seconds it might take for someone to get to her.

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