‘There is an element of fear in the water:’ YMCA on keeping children safe while swimming

Keeping kids safe while in the water
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:34 PM CDT
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HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WBRC) - YMCA wants you to keep everyone in your family safe while having fun in the water this summer.

Birmingham Fire & Rescue say they responded to a possible drowning involving a young child this week at the Drury Inn on Grandview Parkway on Monday night. A fire captain says the child was taken to Grandview Medical Center but right now officials don’t have an update on the child’s condition.

While pools are fun to play, swim, and splash in for people of all ages, they can also be a major safety risk if you’re not careful. That’s why those with the YMCA say it’s important to not necessarily be afraid of the water but have a healthy respect for it.

“There is an element of fear in the water,” said Trey Sullivan, Shades Valley YMCA Aquatics Director. “We don’t want them to be scared but we want them to know that they need to be safe around it.”

He says it all starts with becoming acclimated to the water early in life by introducing the pool slowly. Sullivan says dipping a baby’s feets or hands in the pool is a good way to get them used to the water.

The YMCA starts swimming lessons for babies at six months old. One of the biggest lessons is teaching them out to float.

“The children don’t know how to swim yet, but they’re learning those basic rescue skills,” said Sullivan. “If a child falls into the water and their parents have worked with them throughout the summer on learning how to float up on a backfloat, a starfish float if you will, then if that child does fall into the water or if they get away from the parents, they learn -- ‘I can relax. I can float and my parent can come get me.’”

Sullivan recommends always having your child wear a life jacket, adding that pool noodles or floaties usually aren’t good enough: “Even inflatable rings just because if that pops, then the person in that inflatable can go down.”

He says the biggest thing is making sure an adult is watching the pool no matter what.

“You wouldn’t believe how many parents we see on cell phones or texting or working with other kids and we know parents have a large responsibility when they come to the pool but it’s so important to have at least one adult watching that water at all times,” he explained.

While you’re out shopping for swim suits for your little ones, Sullivan says it’s important to get very bright or neon colors -- such as hot pink and neon yellow or orange. He says muted blues or greens can be difficult to see from the bottom of a pool.

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