Winter is Swim Season for Kids

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Keeping our kids healthy and safe is the top mission for parents. We make sure that our kids eat well, experience a good education, become good citizens and stay active. Aside from consuming plenty of brightly colored vegetables, the ability to swim is one of the most important components of a growing up healthily.

A recent study by the University of Memphis and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas shows that although there has been a 5-10 percent improvement in the percentage of American kids who can swim since 2010, there is still much work to be done. According to the study, “Nearly 64 percent of African-American children, 45 percent of Hispanic children and 40 percent of Caucasian children have no/low swimming ability, putting them at risk for drowning. A concerning finding was that 87 percent of swimmers with no or low ability plan to go to a swimming facility this summer at least once.”

The USA Swimming Foundation sponsors the “Make a Splash” program, a national child-focused water safety program. Make a Splash Local Partners are swim lesson providers who agree to offer free or reduced-cost swim lessons and/or water safety education to children and families in their community. Local Partner programs are vetted by the USA Swimming Foundation to ensure strict adherence of industry best practices. The website offers a location-based swim lesson finder. If you plug in your zip code, the finder lists nearby locations and contact information for swim lessons.

Many swim programs offer classes for kids as young as 6 months old with their parent. These “Parent and Tot” swim classes make the pool a familiar and pleasant place. The feeling of “fun” rather than “fear” allows the process of learning how to swim go more smoothly for both kids and parents. Although toddlers may enjoy water classes with their parents, they will still need constant, vigilant supervision around any amount of water until they are much older. Once kids are in pre-school, they are developmentally ready to learn basic stroke mechanics.

If your swimmer, (6 or older), shows a strong interest in swimming, they may be ready to try a swim team. Swim teams range from year-round, competitive teams to seven-week summer club teams. The Make a Splash swim lesson finder is also a great source for swim team information. Talk to other families to understand the character of each team. Some teams focus on producing top level swimmers, others are more inclusive to all abilities. No matter what the swim team’s mission, make sure that the team puts energy into making swimming a fun experience with peers.

Winter is a great time to help your child live a safe and healthy life by taking swim lessons or participating on a youth swim team. Swimming is a life-long activity and a crucial life-skill. Eat those vegetables and make a splash this winter.

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Chris Palmquist is an USA Triathlon Elite Coach, USA Cycling Elite Coach and Youth/Junior Coach with 19 years of coaching experience. She has written for Chicago Athlete Magazine for more than 20 years. As a Team MPI Head Coach, she has coached athletes to regional, national and world class success. She is a USA Paratriathlon National Team Coach and Team USA Coach at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, ITU World Paratriathlon Series and High Performance Camps at the Olympic Training Centers. Chris coaches youth and junior triathletes as Head Coach for the MMTT Youth Triathlon Team and for USAT at national Junior Skills Camps. In 33 years as an athlete, she has raced several sports including triathlon (13 Ironman), collegiate rowing (Cornell 83-87), canoe/kayak, cross country skiing (20 Birkebeiner) and road bike racing. Chris is married with two kids. Favorite Quote: “Do Simple Better” ~Joe Maddon

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