How to Make Kids Safer Swimmers

By Liz Huber (COE MEd ’10) and Anna Biggins (COE MEd ’09)

We’re lifelong friends, DePaul alumnae and former elementary school teachers who now teach children and families how to create safer swimmers sooner. CAST Water Safety Foundation provides aquatic-survival lessons for infants and children, showing them how to swim, float and rescue themselves in water.

Using sensory-motor-learning and stimulus-response techniques, instructors at CAST teach them to roll to their backs, find air, float and wait for help to arrive. When they are coordinated in their movements, they are strong enough to learn to kick and swim.

It is important to expose children to water in ways that will foster not only fun, but also respect for and understanding of the aquatic environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three children die each day as a result of drowning, which is a leading cause of death for kids ages 1–4. The vast majority of drowning accidents happen when it is not swim time, often because kids who wear “floaties” have a false sense of their own swimming capabilities and go back to the water’s edge alone, unskilled and overconfident.

Here are some safety tips to keep little ones safer this summer:

  • Constant adult supervision is required in and around water! Designate an adult to actively supervise swimmers at all times.
  • Always be in the water within arm’s reach of unskilled swimmers.
  • Create a routine for entering any body of water with permission.
  • Do not use flotation devices (i.e., puddle jumpers) as learn-to-swim toys. They create a falsely perceived ability to swim and delay the true learn-to-swim process.
  • Water play keeps non-swimmers safer when one-on-one time with an adult in the pool is not possible. Consider water tables, slippery slides, water squirters and sprinklers when adults are outnumbered by children.
  • Going on a boat, pier or dock? Wear a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times.

Looking for high-quality, early-childhood swim lessons? Look for lessons that:

  • Allow for frequent, individualized, one-on-one lessons
  • Deliver visible results in weeks, not years
  • Do not use flotation devices as instructional aids
  • Allow children to safely practice survival skills while fully clothed
  • Emphasize safe and appropriate delivery of skills and survival before comfort and games
  • Teach children to establish breath control, learn to swim independently with their eyes open and face in the water, and roll to a float for a period of time

Learn more about Liz and Anna. For more safety tips, educational materials and information on CAST-supported survival-swim lessons, visit

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