Bismarck parents get jump-start on teaching their kids to swim

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Parents are getting a jump-start on teaching their kids how to swim.

We stopped by the Bismarck YMCA to see why their Swim Starters classes are making such a splash.

Kids as young as 6 months old are learning how to swim. How and why are they starting so early?

“We wanted to make sure he’s able to swim, A for a safety reason, if he’s ever out on the river or a lake or the ocean. Or wherever he is, we wanted to make sure he’s able to save himself if needed,” said Laura Devlin.

According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 14. With the warm weather months upon us, it’s important now, more than ever, that kids know what to do in the water.

Safety isn’t the only reason parents are getting involved.

“Being only 9 months old, he really hasn’t been around a lot of people because of COVID. He’s been at home most of his life. So, I also think it’s really good for him to get out and be around other kids,” said Devlin.

Joe Hill has been giving swimming lessons for more than 10 years. He says it comes with some challenges.

“Some kids don’t like to put their face or have sensitivities with water around their face, trying to get them comfortable with that. It does help that the parents can get in the water and participate with lessons with them,” said Hill, the Aquatics Trainer for the Missouri Valley YMCA.

So, how do you teach babies and toddlers how to swim?

“The kids learn better when they’re playing games. So, by playing games, singing songs, they pick up things and are able to do things that we couldn’t do if we hadn’t been playing those songs, singing. Because kids don’t learn off a formal lesson,” said Hill.

What about the “Sink or Swim” method? Should you be throwing your kids in the water?

“We want them to have a good experience and throwing them into the water can sometimes be traumatic,” said Hill.

“That would make me a little nervous. Just because that’s a little hard to let your kid go flying in the pool,” said Devlin.

While some are against it, others are more open to the idea.

“We did that when we were little. That’s what our parents did. I think it just depends on the kid, honestly,” said McKenzie Sheldon.

You might be wondering if the lessons paying off. Sheldon says yes.

“I didn’t think she would be so good at it. She does really well with her back floats and front floats already. It’s just so surprising for how little they are. They just learn so quickly,” said Sheldon.

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