Whether your child is a strong swimmer or just getting comfortable in the water, there are many ways to instil behaviours and tactics that will enhance his or her personal safety in and around water. But all too often, despite their importance, these skills are not systematically taught beyond a few minutes in swim lessons, if at all.
At Tanglin, the Swim and Survive programme gives Year 2 children (6-7 year-olds) the opportunity to focus on water safety over a four-week period, in addition to the Infant School swimming instruction programme. These hour-long, weekly sessions allow dedicated time to practise personal life-saving techniques in a supportive environment so they become second nature and are easily called upon should a child ever need them.
The programme (made possible by the TTS Foundation) introduces students to the essential components in a relaxed and fun way. Those children who can't yet swim well, or at all, practise jumping and quick breathing skills so they can push off the bottom of a pool and bounce themselves to their depth or the side. If they have experienced trauma that has delayed their swimming, their confidence and trust is gradually built up through imaginative water play and visualisation.
"Once these children have had some good experiences and are happy in the water they quickly go from strength to strength. We can then teach them how to get their feet up and float on their back, which is a go-to move for all the children, whatever their swimming proficiency." Nicole Osborn, Swim and Survive Instructor
Children are taught to recognise the signs they are getting tired, and simple ways to prolong their buoyancy; to use their arms if their legs are tired; how to get their tummies and legs up easily and float on their back; to count to five to calm their breathing; and to get their arms and legs slowly moving once they are ready.
"If a child is tired the face comes up and the feet drop down. This is exhausting and they are going nowhere, it takes all their energy to stay afloat. 'Float on your back, float on your back' is the key message we repeat and a key tactic we practise. It takes the panic away and gives time to refocus. Then we teach them 'survival backstroke' a slow and easy stroke with relaxed feet that kick without splashing so all their energy is used to move them through the water.
"In Singapore children are particularly exposed to open water, often travelling in small boats out to the islands. Children are taught how to put on a life jacket and swim in it; how to hold an adult life jacket down so they can swim in it, as that might be all that's available; how to jump away from a boat and out into water, should they need to. The key is to lead by example, to always wear a life jacket in these situations ourselves, and give them as many tools as possible – including belief and confidence – to take the panic out of the situation, should they ever find themselves in open water." Nicole Osborn, Swim and Survive Instructor
Skills learnt over the four lessons include:
- Entry and Exit Skills: teach children to determine the safest entry and exit method for a range of aquatic environments.
- Floating and Sculling Skills: enable children to control their movements in the water.
- Survival and Personal Floatation Device (PFD) Skills: includes the teaching of survival techniques and strategies for a range of emergency situations, including the use of PFDs.
- Underwater Skills: assist in building vital confidence in the water. Relaxation and good breath control are developed to increase swimming endurance.
- Rescue Skills: equip children with the required skills to perform a range of rescues depending on the emergency situation, the environment and prevailing conditions.
- Water Safety Knowledge: develops an understanding of a range of swimming and water safety issues that underpins safety in and around the water.