Teaching your child to swim has many benefits. Not only is it a great way to improve their fitness, it is lots of fun and a great way to make new friends.

On a more serious note, it could one day save their life. Alarmingly, drowning is the 3rd highest cause of accidental death in children in the UK, according to the 2010 UK drowning statistics.

The report reveals that there were 420 accidental deaths by drowning in 2010. 57 of the casualties were children up to age 19. It is thought that thousands of people (as many as 1 in 500) have a near drowning experience at some point in their lives. Taking this into account, the ability to swim is a vital life skill, and one that should be learnt as soon as possible.

It may come as a surprise to find that that one in five adults in the UK does not know how to swim. This figure will no doubt decrease over time as most children are now taught to swim at swimming classes or through school.

Many would assume that the majority of drowning cases occurred in open, deep or dangerous waters like lakes, canals or rivers, but amongst 0 – 4-year olds, garden ponds were the most common causes of drowning in 2010, with 8 deaths. Not only is learning to swim important then, but teaching children the risks of approaching water unsupervised, as well as making sure parents are well informed and take the necessary measures to ensure their child is safe outdoors.

Aside from saving lives, swimming is also a necessary life skill for more pleasurable reasons. There aren’t many summer holidays that don’t involve cooling off with a dip in the hotel pool or, in the sea or lakes. If children are not taught to swim from an early age, these pleasures become much more dangerous, and there are some activities that they may simply be unable to partake in. There are so many amazing experiences like SCUBA diving, swimming with dolphins, water skiing, kayaking or surfing, which require the ability to swim. Even boat trips become much more risky if those on board cannot swim. Many take the ability to swim for granted, but imagine being unable to enjoy any of these activities whilst your friends or family dive in.

If you are thinking about beginning to teach your child to swim, there are numerous options. Swimming classes are available from birth upwards, so choosing the right time to take the plunge is up to you, and your child. Once you think he or she is ready there are many classes that encourage children to develop a familiarity with water very early in development. Whilst babies and toddlers are not taught the specific strokes we associate with professional swimmers, it may surprise you how effectively they can move through the water, and how quickly they pick it up. They can also learn valuable skills like floating, and learn to hold their breath underwater, which could be a life saver.

Sammy Harvey is a parenting blogger and is familiar with swimming lessons for children, having taken her two children along to classes. Parents often ask for recommendations on the best classes. She recommends www.puddleducks.com who have classes for all ages and abilities.

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