It's never too early to teach kids to swim


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

Common sense would tell you that if you live on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, learning to swim would be as important as learning to walk.

And yet I have been told repeatedly that something like 60 percent of all children in Hawaii between the ages of one and 14 do not know how to swim.

Oh, some of those kids may even surf, but if the leash to their bodyboard or surfboard breaks, they are going to be in big trouble.

Hawaii is one of 10 states, according to national statistics, where drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged 14 and under. And nationally, drowning ranks second only to automobile accidents for childhood fatalities.

The local boating community's sailing instructors at the Kaneohe, Hawaii and Waikiki yacht clubs, to their credit, all require their students to learn to swim before they can take their first on-the-water sailing lessons.

But then, how soon and where can a child be taught to swim? The answers are as early as six month old, and in your nearby swimming pool, as I have recently learned.

Infant Swimming Resource is an organization that provides unique swimming instruction for children ranging from six months to six years, and has developed innovative techniques that are used by some 350 instructors nationwide, including four certified instructors on Oahu.

The instruction program consists of brief 10-minute, one-on-one lessons, Monday through Friday, for four to six weeks, each with a focus on safe, scientifically proven methods for teaching children to swim with an emphasis on self-rescue.

Infants under a year old “;learn to hold their breath underwater, roll on to their back and float unassisted,”; ISR's Web site explains. “;Infants over 1 year learn “;to hold their breath underwater, swim with their head down, roll on their back to float, rest and breath, and roll back over to resume swimming until they reach the side of the pool and can crawl out or be rescued by an adult.”;

By teaching children how to save their own lives, the program builds up their confidence, which will lead to a lifetime of fun in and around the water, an ISR representative noted.

“;ISR not only teaches babies and young children aquatic self-rescue skills,”; Kailua instructor Deb Pyrek told me. “;We also educate parents and caregivers about water safety, and stress there is no substitute for constant supervision.”;

Parents also provide encouragement for their children during our lessons, Pyrek said. And instructors will demonstrate techniques parents can use when swimming or playing in the water to reinforce the skills their children have learned.

“;We also discuss pool safety, such as pool fencing and gates, door locks, alarms, removing toys from the pool area, beach and boating safety, and other safety tips,”; Pyrek added.

To learn more about the ISR program, visit its Web site at

www.infantswim.com, or to speak with Pyrek in Hawaii or to enroll your child in a class, you can call her at 808-542-7074 or send e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu. He can be reached by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)