CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Water safety for all, but especially for children, was what led Gaylene Anderson, to create the "Waterproof Kids" DVD. She's shown with son Tanner.
a splash for all
A DVD teaching swimming
and water safety for all ages
will help prevent tragedy
Nothing beats splashing around in the waves at the beach on a hot summer's day. The experience can be exhilarating, but it can also be dangerous for children who are unfamiliar with water safety. A day at the beach or a pool party can turn into a day in the emergency room in mere seconds -- or, worse, result in death. Most drownings involving a child occur in swimming pools or shallow water and can happen in a minute.
Drowning is the second most common cause of death in youngsters under the age of 14. And this is one of the reasons Gaylene Anderson created "Waterproof Kids," a DVD that instructs babies to adults on water safety and teaches landlubbers how to swim.
After coaching and teaching swimming all over the country, Anderson -- University of Hawaii Aqua Camp director for elementary school-age kids -- said she saw many families who could not afford swimming lessons, who did not live near pool facilities or with schedules that could not accommodate lesson times, she said. "Consequently, millions of children are not learning how to swim or be water-safe."
She's no advocate of the old-fashioned "sink or swim" teaching method, either. By creating an unpleasant experience, she said, children might only learn fear of the water. "If they have a bad experience, they won't want to swim. If they crave it, they will want to learn."
Parents can start by allowing a child to become comfortable in the water. It's as simple as splashing in the bathtub. "It's all about motivation," she said. "Use their favorite toys, fun soap or sit in the tub with them. You can't expect them to do it by themselves."
FINIS Inc., part of a National Drowning Prevention Coalition, agreed to produce the DVD, which follows the antics of "water pals" Sammy Starfish, Timmy Tadpole and Gilbert Guppy in grabbing children's attention and encouraging water safety.
The disc includes segments for babies, ages 6 months to 2 years; toddlers, ages 2 to 4; children 5 to 12; teens; and adults.
The modules are easy to understand. Paul Sosso and Thomas Gorgas partnered with Anderson to complete the project, and a small budget made innovative camera work necessary.
"We really needed to establish a sense of humor," said Sosso. "We were fighting clouds, noise, sirens, helicopters and marching bands."
He created a sound studio in his apartment using duct tape and his futons. Gorgas helped with the filming because he had experience working on professional underwater films.
"We wanted to reach out to the masses," said Anderson. "This was not a get-rich-quick scheme."
Teaching kids to swim "is not rocket science," said Anderson. But, teaching the basics means starting on land by getting them to hold their breath, then graduating to blowing bubbles in the water. "Otherwise, when their face goes in the water, they panic."
The aim is to build trust and have fun first, she said. "The skills will come later. Gradually introduce challenges."
But she cautions: "Don't push too hard. Kids learn at different speeds. You want them to stay confident," she said.
EVEN AFTER YOUR child is competent in crossing a swimming pool or sitting in an inner tube, don't assume he can't drown, she said. Drowning is known as a silent death because kids who fall into the water just sink, as if they have gone into shock.
"I teach the kids to do bobs and yell 'bob' whenever they come up out of the water. For the youngest children, she recommends learning to float in a resting position so if they fall in the water, rather than struggle, they can propel themselves to the side of a pool and get out. They can also yell for help if they are on their back, she added.
It is especially important to pay attention during the summer, when children spend more time outdoors without adequate supervision.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Paul Sosso, left, Thomas Gorgas and Gaylene Anderson collaberated to create "Waterproof Kids," a DVD on water safety.
For parents whose children are already enrolled in swimming classes, the DVD can supplement lessons.
"I truly believe this video will make a huge difference in saving lives," Anderson said. "The only way this video is going to lower drowning statistics is by having it widely available across the United States.
"Some people don't have the resources to know that they are in danger," Anderson added. "Parents can do more to protect their children around water, but they need the tools and knowledge. They just need to learn a little bit and know the basic things."
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Learn to swim the old-fashioned way, by getting wet. Here are a few organizations offering lessons:
Kamaaina Kids: Call 262-4538 or visit www.kamaainakids.com.
Leahi Swim School: Call 735-1666 or visit www.leahiswimschool.com.
Swim Hawaii: Call 922-4192 or 734-3430 or visit www.swimhawaii.com.
YMCA: Call the Mililani branch at 625-1040, Kaimuki at 737-5544, Kailua at 261-0808 or downtown locations at 941-3344 (Atkinson) or 536-3556 (Pali Highway).
YWCA: Call downtown, 538-7061, ext. 0, or Kaneohe at 247-2124.
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