3 minute readHealth & Safety
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A Gift to Last a Lifetime

My parents gave me quite a few gifts of value – both in terms of sentiment and monetary worth – throughout my 33 years. My Little Ponies, an Easy Bake Oven, and a purple two-wheeler with a rainbow banana seat were some of my favorites from childhood, while a laptop computer and new floors for my current house rank near the top since I’ve been an adult. But swimming lessons, while not as exhilarating as a shiny two-wheeler or flashy as a laptop computer, were arguably one of the most valuable gifts my parents ever gave me.

I began American Red Cross Parent and Child swimming lessons when I was six MONTHS old. I continued with American Red Cross swimming lessons (Parent and Child, Preschool, and Learn-to-Swim) until I was 11 years old, at which point both my sister and I joined swim team and enrolled in more advanced American Red Cross water safety classes. Thanks to my parents’ insistence that my sister and I become confident and strong swimmers, we’ve both spent summers as American Red Cross lifeguards and water safety instructors, helping teach the next generation how to swim and stay safe in and around the water.

There’s one generation I can’t teach, however. Despite the fact that I clearly know what I’m talking about when it comes to most things water-related, my children have absolutely no interest in listening to me when I explain to them how they should move their arms and legs or when they should take breaths while they’re swimming. Instead they just roll their eyes and look at me like I was born yesterday.

Left: SO excited to start swimming lessons. Right: SO excited to be away from me. And yes, she always swims in her sunglasses.

I did my best for the first 36 months of each of their lives, but when they reached age three I basically gave up on teaching them myself and enrolled them in American Red Cross Preschool Aquatics swimming lessons at our local swimming pool. Their progress has been amazing, thanks to great instructors and the Preschool Aquatics curriculum. Two years ago they would barely toe the water in the baby pool; today, Will (5 yo) can do, among other things, the front crawl, the elementary backstroke, and a number of floats, and Hallie (3 yo) can put her entire head underwater and has started learning strokes and how to float on her back. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Practicing his streamline. All you swim instructors are probably thinking, “gee, it needs work”.

Still wearing the sunglasses…

The American Red Cross is the most-trusted name in aquatics, providing swim courses that are designed to help people of all ages and abilities develop their water safety, survival, and swim skills and increase their comfort levels in and around the water. There are classes for literally everyone:

  • Parent and Child Aquatics for children (and a parent) between 6 months and 3 years old
  • Preschool Aquatics for 4-5 year-old children
  • And Learn-to-Swim classes for children and adults starting at age 6.

As parents we strive to give our children the very best opportunities – from education to travel to athletics and music – in life. We want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, productive members of society, and I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one of the ways we can help children become all we hope and know they can be is by insisting they take swimming lessons.

Swimming lessons help children learn how to swim, which keeps them safer than their counterparts who don’t know how to swim both throughout childhood but also into their tween, teen, and adult years.

Swimming lessons help children develop a healthy level of confidence and independence in the water, which more often than not translates to a healthy level of confidence and independence out of the water as well.

Children who are strong swimmers grow into teens and young adults who are strong swimmers, and at that point there are incredible opportunities for sports team involvement (most pools and high schools have swim teams) and summer job security and growth (there will always be a demand for lifeguards and water safety instructors). Not to mention the fact that teens and young adults who begin their affiliation with the American Red Cross as lifeguards and water safety instructors often further connect with the organization by becoming First Aid and CPR instructors.

Additionally, I can’t neglect to mention that swimming is one of the best whole-body cardiovascular and strength-training workouts available, for both kids and adults and for people of all weights, physical abilities, and fitness levels. Swimming is also an incredibly valuable form of exercise for people – like my son – with asthma. The warm, humid air around the pool causes less irritation to the airways, and learning to swim – which includes learning how to breath according to each stroke – teaches people how to control the airflow in and out of their lungs.

The season is young, my friends. There is still plenty of time to sign your children up for American Red Cross swimming lessons. Let this be the year they receive one of the most valuable gifts of all – the ability to swim.