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The importance of teaching kids to swim

by Tshepy Matloga-Malope
The importance of children learning how to swim
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Teaching children how to swim is not just an extracurricular activity but a vital life skill with significant safety implications. By Tshepy Matloga-Malope

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019, an estimated 236 000 people died from drowning, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide. In the same year, injuries accounted for almost 8% of total global mortality.

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1-4 years old, followed by children 5–9 years old.

The Global Report on Drowning pointed out that drowning has been highly overlooked to date and that a great deal more should be done by governments and the research and policy communities to prioritise drowning prevention and its integration with other public health agendas.

We explore the importance of teaching your kids to swim, the cultural aspect of not learning to swim, and what to do if swimming lessons are financially unaffordable. Plus, we give you a list of ideas for the best pool coverings, including nets and fences, evaluating their safety and affordability.

“Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death.”

Also read Drowning prevention

The importance of learning how to swim

Water safety: Drowning is one of the top 5 leading causes of accidental death among children. By teaching your kids to swim, they become equipped with the necessary water safety skills to navigate and handle potentially dangerous situations in and around water bodies.

*Please remember that very small babies and toddlers can drown in the bath and even in buckets and puddles of water. Some kids may not even realise that they do not know how to swim if they have not been made aware of this fact.

Confidence & independence: Learning to swim has been proven to boost a child’s self-confidence and independence. It allows them to explore water environments, participate in water-related activities, and open up a broader range of recreational opportunities.

Physical fitness: Swimming is a low-impact, full-body workout that improves cardiovascular health, muscular strength, and endurance. Starting at a young age, children develop a healthy relationship with physical fitness, setting the foundation for an active lifestyle.

What are the cultural aspects of not learning to swim?

In many cultures, there are historical, social, or religious reasons why swimming lessons are not prioritised. However, it is important to challenge these cultural barriers and recognise that swimming is a life-saving skill, especially considering the risks associated with drowning.

In South Africa, a shocking 15% of kids can swim.

Drowning Prevention The importance of learning how to swimOvercoming fear
Cultural barriers and fears around water can be overcome through education and exposure. By teaching the importance of knowing how to swim to parents and teaching swimming to children, we can help break these barriers and create a safe space for cultural acceptance and understanding.

Health disparities
In many communities, lack of access to swimming facilities and financial constraints contribute to limited swimming opportunities. Addressing these disparities requires awareness, advocacy, and the provision of affordable or subsidised swimming programs. The number of children who are able to swim will keep increasing as avenues to teach children how to swim become more accessible and affordable to all.

“In South Africa, a shocking 15% of kids can swim.”

What if swimming lessons are unaffordable?

Although the global burden and deaths from drowning are found in all economies and regions, low- and middle-income countries account for over 90% of unintentional drowning deaths. For parents who do not have access to affordable swimming lessons, there are alternative approaches to ensuring water safety for their children:

Community programs: Research local community centres, schools, or organisations that offer subsidized or free swimming programs for children.

Volunteer programs: Look for volunteer-led initiatives or non-profit organisations that provide swimming lessons to underprivileged communities.

Parental involvement: If professional lessons are unaffordable, parents who can swim can take the lead in teaching their children basic swimming skills in a controlled, safe environment. It is important to always emphasize the supervision of children when near water.

Pool coverings: safety & affordability

When it comes to ensuring pool safety, various coverings can be utilised. Here are some commonly used pool coverings, rated for safety and affordability:

Pool Fences: Fences are effective in preventing unauthorised access to pools, reducing the risk of accidents. They act as a physical barrier and can be economically priced, depending on materials and installation requirements. Make sure they are tall enough with locks on the gate.

Pool nets: Pool nets provide a protective barrier, preventing children from falling into the water. They are affordable and easy to install. However, continuous parental vigilance is required, as they do not prevent access to the pool area and if a child falls on top of them, they may get stuck.

Pool covers: These covers are typically made of heavy-duty materials and can support the weight of a child. They offer protection from accidental falls and keep debris out of the pool. While they can be more expensive, they provide optimal safety and maintenance benefits.

Click here for 7 water safety tips

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