Swim lessons help children stay safe in the water

As temperatures warm up, more kids are hitting the pool, and swim instructors say now is the time parents should make sure their kids are safe and prepared around the water.

Little Hazel is just 15 months old but no stranger to the water. She started swimming lessons at just six months.

"I had no idea that they did it quite this young or the advancement that they got," parent Darlene Long said.

An instructor helps a baby gets out of the pool.

An instructor helps a baby gets out of the pool. 

Long's son DJ, who is two years old, has been taking swim lessons since last year after she and her family moved from Nevada into a home with a backyard pool.

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"He jumps in on his own. He can get the wall on his own. He can dive for sticks. He's completely comfortable in the water," Long stated.

It's that comfort that Erin Seal-Grande, owner of Seal Swim School in Pasco and Pinellas counties, says is so important kids have at a young age, especially if they live in a home with a backyard pool.

A child learns to swim in the pool.

A child learns to swim in the pool. 

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, in 2021, the state hit a record high of 98 child drownings, up from the 69 reported in 2020. The department says most deaths occurred in Central Florida, with the average age being three years old.

"It can happen in seconds. The biggest thing we can do is put all the points in place to keep our children safer, and swimming lessons are a huge part of that," Seal-Grande said.

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Seal-Grande says she's taught students as young as four weeks old, starting with teaching them how to float on their backs.

An instructor and a child in the pool.

An instructor and a child in the pool. 

"The more opportunities you give your child in the water with lessons, with understanding and respecting the water, with being around the water. It's important, especially here in Florida," Seal-Grande said.

"Swimming lessons reduce the rate of drowning by 80% and barriers around your pools, making sure you have all the gates, the bells, the whistles, all of that around. And then knowing CPR, knowing to keep your gates, lock your doors locked, alarms, whistle bells, all of it just to keep those children safer, but always coming back to giving them a chance in the water, and that's giving them swimming lessons," Seal-Grande said.

Seal Swim School operates from April to October.