Swim instructor offers key tips to keep your keiki safe this summer

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It’s summer, and that means many families will be spending time outdoors, including at the beach or pool.

While this can be a lot of fun, it can also be dangerous. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning kills more children 1-4 years of age than anything else except birth defects. Among children 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.

“(Swimming) is just one of those things that you need to know how to do to just stay safe in the water,” said Ben Komer, president of Leahi Swim School on Oahu. “We always say never take your eyes off your child in the water, and just because they know how to swim doesn’t mean they’re completely safe, and there’s that common misnomer about oh, my child is drown-proof. There’s so such thing as drown-proofing. Anyone can drown.”

Komer says these deaths are preventable and offers important tips for parents and caregivers: 

  • Learn to swim: By learning to swim, children (and adults) are learning skills that could save their lives one day.
  • Never swim alone: Always make sure to watch your child while swimming or make sure they are with another adult. Swimming at a beach or pool with a lifeguard is important. The water can be unpredictable so it’s important to keep an eye on even strong swimmers.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Skills don’t develop overnight. They need to be practiced regularly and take time to develop.

Komer suggests designating a “water-watcher” during gatherings at the beach or pool. “If you designate someone like, hey, you’re going to be the water-watcher for the next 15 minutes, and your job is just to watch the kids or anyone in the pool, and if someone starts talking to you, say hey, I can’t talk right now, I’m watching the kids. Then in 15 minutes, hand it off to someone else, so there’s always one person designated to watch.”

Here are some in-water skills to help keep kids safe:

  • Encourage children to get their faces wet: They shouldn’t be afraid to get their faces in the water and keep them there. Being comfortable with water in the face is crucial to a building a strong swimming foundation. 
  • There’s a time and place for life jackets: Life jackets are important while on a boat or in the open ocean. However, when you’re at the pool or on the shoreline at the beach, just because your child has a life jacket on doesn’t mean they’re safe. It can also set them on a path to developing bad habits that will be difficult to correct as they get older.

Leahi Swim School offers swim lessons for babies as young as 6 months old (with a guardian), children of all ages, and adults.

There are three locations: Saint Francis School in Manoa, Momilani Community Center in Pearl City, and Kapolei Lofts.

Registration begins next week for the fall session, which will start in early August. 

For more information, visit www.leahiswimschool.com or call (808) 234-SWIM (7946).

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