Is your child ready to hit the pool?
Laura Miller
chats to some of Hong Kong’s
top swimming coaches for the low-down on swimming lessons.
iving in Asia, where almost
any body of water is an
inviting playground for most
of the year, parents spend
a lot of energy planning swimming
lessons for their children. This focus
on learning to swim is completely
understandable. According to the
World Health Organization, children
under five years of age have the highest
drowning mortality rates worldwide. In
China, drowning is the leading cause of
death from injury in children aged one
to 14 years, and even in Australia, one
of the most swim-savvy nations in the
world, drowning is the leading cause of
death from injury in children aged one
to three years.
Yet we don’t want our children to
learn to swim just for their own safety:
Swimming is a fun, exhilarating
and healthy pastime, and the more
confident and competent a child is in
the water, the more enjoyment they
get out of it.
After a recent holiday in Sri
Lanka however, I realised that
confidence and competence do
not always go hand in hand. With
a swimming pool and lagoon to
choose from, my almost-three-year-
old gained confidence in the water
at a rapid rate. By day five, she was
throwing herself in from the top step
shouting, “Cannonball!” This was
extremely entertaining to watch.
What wasn’t so entertaining was on
day eight when she didn’t want to
wear her inflatable armbands any
more so she could “go underwater
more easily” – and discovered she
could remove them herself.
We arrived back in Hong Kong
determined to capitalise on her
confidence in the water, and to get
her swimming unaided as soon as
possible. Chatting to Hong Kong’s
swimming experts – Andrew Cox
of Innate Fitness; Katie Heyring
of Dragon Swim Centre; Sharon
Wrobel of Platypus Aquatics; and
Karen Robertson of FloatPlus
Swimming – couldn’t have been
better timed.
How young is it possible for children
to swim unaided?
Sharon says:
It depends on what you
wish to classify as “swim”. We have
many children who, at two years, are
able to independently swim using an
underwater dog-paddle for about two
metres to get to the side and climb
out of the pool. Even some of the
toddlers as young as 18 months can
manage a small dog-paddle from the
parent to the wall. If you mean formal
swimming with strokes, then we have
some three-year-olds who are able to
swim breaststroke and crawl for short
distances, some up to about five metres.
When should lessons start?
Andrew says:
The earlier the better.
Before six months, babies still have
an innate affinity for water as a
result of life in the womb. Build
on this to generate enthusiasm for
water: In the bath, pour (soap-free)
water over your baby’s head to get
him comfortable having his eyes and
ears in water.
Summer 2013