Olympian and former champion swimmer, Melanie Wright, shares her concerns on the alarming number of Aussie children who can’t actually swim.
As a small child growing up on the Sunshine Coast, learning how to swim was not presented to me as an optional extra. It was de rigueur; top priority and a non-negotiable part of my childhood. In a land peppered with pools, beaches, creeks, rivers and dams, opportunities for drowning were everywhere. And all the Mums knew it.
So from the earliest opportunity, all the kids in my social clique were taken to swimming lessons at the local pool and were quite literally, thrown in the deep end. Taking swimming lessons was the best insurance policy against their children drowning that these Mums had, and they were prepared to hand over what little coin they could scrape together to get it.
Our family got a backyard pool when I was four and between the pool and the nearby beach, I was constantly exposed to water. As I got a bit older, going to the local pool or the beach was a social outing with my friends.
The stats on kids who can’t swim are very concerning
Coming from that kind of background where everyone, and I mean everyone, could swim, at least enough to get themselves out of trouble, by the age of 5, it astonished me to read that currently in Australia only 67 per cent of children under the age of 5 know how to swim.
That means a third don’t. Poolwerx research shows that almost half (47 per cent) of Australian parents rated their children’s water safety skills as poor or average and one in three parents believed their child would be unable to get out of a pool if they fell in.
Have our increasingly crowded schedules pushed swimming lessons down our list of priorities? We march our kids off to piano lessons and soccer practice, why is a life skill like swimming less important? Or is it simply that cost is a factor?
As a Mum, I know all the extra-curricular activities our children are involved in can add up but for me, swimming lessons should be prioritised over other activities and should be seen as a crucial part of early development. As Mums, we need to push swimming lessons for under 5s back to the top of our priority list. Poolwerx research shows that over 50 per cent of parents are willing to spend between $11 and $20 for extra-curricular activities, however they are prioritising other activities over swimming lessons.
Knowing how to swim is the no.1 determining factor in whether your child survives a near-drowning incident if you’re not around to save them. When faced with that fact is seems illogical not to get your kids enrolled in swimming lessons pronto.
Yes there’s a point to all this – October 2 to 9 is national Learn2Swim Week, seven days devoted to encouraging parents across the country to get their kids in the pool and learning to swim.
Hundreds of swim schools across the country are supporting the initiative by offering free – yes free – swimming lessons for under 5s.
So no excuses about the household budget. And with under 5 swimming lessons taking typically no more than half an hour, the excuse of ‘no time’ starts to look a little thin also.
To find a swim school in your area offering free swimming lessons as part of Learn2Swim Week visit the website, http://learn2swimweek.com/, and punch in your postcode.
It will only take you a minute but it just might save the life of your child.
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