Old Town Hot Springs: Swim lessons powerful preventative to drowning accidents
As we enter mud season and the abundance of water in the Yampa Valley begins to thaw and flow, it’s a good time to remember that water safety should be a top priority for parents whose children plan to be around water.
According to a case study of drowning accidents conducted by Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, participation in formal swim lessons was associated with an 88-percent reduction in the risk of drowning among 1- to 4-year-old children.
Old Town Hot Springs Aquatics Director Mark vonSchondorf, a certified American Red Cross water safety instructor who oversees the facility’s swim lesson program, said he is not surprised by the statistic.
“Children adapt to water very quickly,” he said. “We see improvements at a very young age.”
What concerns vonSchondorf, however, is what happens when there is no comfort level around water.
“For many children, jumping into water can be a traumatic experience. They can be very distraught and start to panic, even with an instructor, lifeguard and their parents all right there,” vonSchondorf said. “Imagine if that experience happened unexpectedly and unsupervised in the river or a condominium pool instead of the safety of a swim lesson.”
Fortunately, swim lessons have been shown to be beneficial for children as young as six months in a format where parents and children are in the pool together. The concept is to get children familiar and comfortable with water.
“It’s interesting, because you can really tell which kids have taken those classes,” vonSchondorf said. “They are not scared of the water, and they seem to be engrained with a greater respect for pool rules, in regard to things like only swimming with an adult present or returning to the wall after you jump in.”
Parent-and-child swim lessons are only recommended up to age 3, at which point group swim lessons with an instructor becomes more beneficial.
“At 3 years, we offer preschool swim lessons,” vonSchondorf said. “It consists of about six students working with an instructor to build swimming skills and understand water safety.”
At this age, children learn to float and move their arms and legs without assistance. It also lays the foundation for practicing strokes while establishing a strong level of comfort in water.
For those who complete the preschool program, or for anyone older than age 6, Old Town Hot Springs offers its learn-to-swim lessons broken down into six levels. Levels range from level one, an introduction to water, to level six, where students refine individual strokes, increase efficiency and power over greater distances and learn the fundamentals of diving.
vonSchondorf recommends several sessions — each consisting of eight lessons — throughout the summer.
“One of the most important things is consistency.” vonSchondorf said. “Consistent swimming is what’s going to really show improvements in a child. We have parents who sign their child up for a lesson in late summer and then expect them to be ready to go the following spring on vacation, but that’s not a likely scenario.”
Old Town Hot Springs offers a full schedule of swim lesson sessions to suit any schedule. Sessions are offered once, twice or four times per week and are held every day except Sundays.
“We really want anyone and everyone to be able to take a swim lesson session,” vonSchondorf said. “We work hard with outside groups, including preschools and daycares, and just really want people to know there should be an eight-class session that fits their schedule.”
Parents interested in registering their children for swim lessons can view the schedule and register online at oldtownhotsprings.org/swimlessons.
Nick Esares is marketing director at Old Town Hot Springs
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