Are we failing our children by not teaching them to swim?

(Courtesy SPATA website:

The National – Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association (SPATA), has put out an alert ahead of the summer, urging parents to plan in more water skills time with their young children. Providing essential life skills that will make a big difference to children’s lives.

There is nothing quite like getting out and swimming in a pool. However, whether it’s with friends or family, in a pool at home or abroad or enjoying a picnic by a river or swimming in a lake, it’s always important to keep safe.

From the first few months of birth parents are encouraged to spend time with their baby in the pool, and at this early stage, these infants can be taught crucial water skills. Charities such as the Jack Rabbit Foundation, are raising awareness for the safety of babies and toddlers in and around water encouraging the teaching early years water survival programs which are popular in the United States and Australia but need more publicity in the UK and Europe:

Under the National Curriculum, all children under the age of 11 years should be able to swim 25 meters unaided, ensuring they have some knowledge of safety in the water. It is always good to have competent swimmers on hand who can swim to an emergency if need be. Where possible, use a swim school so that children can learn to swim correctly and safely. Key swimming organisations include or

Around 400 people needlessly drown in the UK every year, and thousands more suffer injury, some life-changing, through near-drowning experiences. Putting this into context, one person dies every 20 hours in the UK. Drowning is also the third highest cause of accidental death of children in the UK. So the need for children (and adults) to be competent and confident in and around water is essential.

If you have a garden pool or body of water, it is crucial to keep it safe so that everyone can enjoy their time in and around the water.

Below is a checklist of some ways to do this:

1. Undivided Supervision:
Adequate supervision is the first and most important way to prevent drowning. But, regardless of the best efforts and intentions, children cannot constantly be supervised. The phone will ring, there will be a knock on the door, or a neighbor will stop by to chat. Furthermore, constant supervision becomes difficult, if not impossible, if you have more than one child. Sadly, all too often a moment’s distraction can cost a child their life. So it is important to make sure that your undivided attention is given to children while in the pool.
2. Permanent Pool Fencing with a Self-latching Gate
A fence can prevent direct access from both the house to the pool and the garden to the pool. If a fence is installed, a self-latching gate is a critical feature. Keep in mind, however, that many toddlers can scale even a four-foot fence in only a few minutes. Be sure to keep pool furniture inside the fence because children can use the furniture, or even toys that are outside, as a stepping stool to climb over the fence.

3. Pool Safety Covers
Safety covers are available from most SPATA retailers and contractors and in a choice of styles and designs. These range from a simple safety net, which is tensioned over the pool when not in use, to a fully automated system which will completely cover the pool
in a matter of minutes, by simply pressing a remote control switch. Please note, there are no swimming pool covers that are 100% safe, and therefore in certain circumstances, other measures, such as fences might have to be considered, dependent on each individual case.

4. Enclosures
Enclosing your swimming pool not only enables you to use it for more of the year but it also means that the pool can be shut off when unsupervised. Added to the savings in heating and cleaning which a pool enclosure can bring, the prospect becomes very attractive.

5. Pool alarms
Pool alarms can be purchased that sound an alert if the water surface is broken. Many home security systems can also be programmed to sound an alarm if the patio doors that give access to the pool are opened. While these alarms are helpful, the drawback is that they tend to be used consistently, and we can ‘tune out’ the sound if we hear it every time the door opens.

6. Keep toys stored away
Toys that are kept around the pool area can be very inviting to young children. Remove the incentive to be in the pool area by keeping toys away from the pool when they are not in use. Riding toys should never be used in or around the pool area.

7. Keep jets aimed towards the shallow end and the steps
If your child does fall into the water, properly positioned jets can create a current that will guide them towards the shallow end and steps giving the child a better chance to exit the pool.

8. Hot Tubs
Spas and hot tubs with warm water and bubbles can be particularly enticing for children. To prevent dehydration, or heat-related illness, keep the water temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit and limit your child’s playtime to less than 10 minutes. Also, keep the jets off; the currents created by the jets can be particularly strong and are very dangerous for young children. When the spa or hot tub is not in use, secure it with a hard top cover with a latch that locks.

Being able to swim from an early age can open the door to incredible experiences, time spent at a swim class as a child can bring years of new opportunities as you grow and develop. The ability to swim competently is essential for any water sports from diving, canoeing, jet skiing, snorkeling, rowing, kitesurfing and wakeboarding, the list goes on! And this vital life skill can be a regret for many adults who don’t learn to swim early in life!