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Infant and Toddler Swimming Programs: Are They Safe and Effective?

It’s now officially summertime, but people have been hitting the pools and beaches for weeks in many parts of the nation. In fact it has been well into the 90’s for over two month here in Baton Rouge, which is what I blame for the early exit of LSU from the College World Series. Our boys just weren’t used to that cold and dry northern weather.

Not surprisingly, the media has already been busy reporting on some of the many tragic drowning incidents that have occurred thus far, and Facebook profiles have been full of commentary from worried parents. And, as usual, there are businesses offering infant and toddler swimming lessons costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars per course, some of which come with claims of decreasing the risk of drowning in the young participants.

At what age can a child begin swimming lessons? According to Jan Emler of Emler Swim School, teaching a child to swim can start “As soon as the umbilical cord falls off.” Emler, like more reputable proponents of infant and toddler swimming programs, doesn’t actually put newborns into swimming pools for lessons (I’ll leave water birthing enthusiasts out of this discussion). For the most part these programs only cover bath time activities to help younger babies grow comfortable being in the water. Truly teaching infants and toddlers behaviors aimed at reducing the likelihood of drowning in the event of falling into a body of water doesn’t usually start until 6 months of age. There are exceptions.

But when should these lessons start, are they safe and do they work? Or do they actually put children at risk of injury and the parent at risk of having a false sense of security? Until their updated 2010 policy statement on the prevention of drowning, the American Academy of Pediatrics came down firmly against initiating swimming lessons in children less than 4 years of age for a number of very good reasons. Why did they soften their stance and does their change of opinion support the claims that are being made by infant and toddler swimming programs?  First some background information.

An Overview of Drowning

What is drowning?

The most widely accepted definition of drowning, determined during a 2002 international Utstein-style consensus conference in Amsterdam, is “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” This definition, as well as recommendations by the World Congress on Drowning and the WHO to avoid confusing terminology such as “near-drowning”, “wet”, “dry”, “silent”, or “secondary drowning”, has helped to make discussion and collection of data more consistent and reliable. They recommend categorizing drowning outcomes as death, no injury, or with injury (moderately disabled, severely disabled, vegetative state/coma and brain death). Determination of disability is primarily based on cognitive impairment but does take into account involvement of other organ systems. In 2010, the American Heart Association endorsed this approach as well.

How does drowning affect the body?

If you happen to have a phobia about drowning, you may want to skip this section as it will make clear why the process is so terrifying. All drowning incidents involve a liquid, usually water, invading at least the opening into the airway and leading to an inability to breathe air. Injuries are usually preceded by the onset of panic and loss of normal rhythmic breathing patterns. We hold our breaths as long as possible but eventually develop air hunger and are overcome by involuntary reflex attempts at breathing.

As the liquid enters the opening to the airway in the mouth and throat, the musculature reacts quickly to keep water out of the lungs by an intense spasm despite respiratory effort increasing dramatically. Often large amounts of liquid are swallowed. Oxygen levels in the blood continue to drop and carbon dioxide levels rise, leading to increasing acidity of the blood. (And we all know that people with acidic blood are at high risk for cancer, poor immune function and the dreaded Low T.) Eventually the muscle spasm will relax and water will be actively taken into the lungs in varying amounts.

During this process, no gas exchange is taking place in the lungs. This means that decreasing amounts of oxygen will be delivered to vital organs like the brain and heart. Water in the lungs adds insult to injury by causing increased blood pressure in the pulmonary blood vessels and abnormal shunting of blood. The worsening acidosis and hypoxia (lack of oxygen) can cause fatal heart arrhythmias, renal failure, and clotting abnormalities, but cerebral hypoxia is the primary means of disability and death.

How does drowning impact children?

By far the most common causes of death in young children are unintentional injuries. And of these fatal injuries, drowning is the most common culprit in children aged 1 to 4 years. It is the second-most common cause of injury related death overall through 18 years of life, killing about a thousand kids each year in the United States.

But it isn’t just fatal outcomes that make drowning injuries such a scourge in pediatrics. For every fatality there are many more nonfatal drowning injuries that are seen in emergency departments each year, of which many require hospitalization and about 5-10% lead to long-term disabilities caused by damage to the central nervous system. Caring for severely disabled children is often a significant emotional strain on parents, the result of which can be devastating for the family unit. Least of the many well-recognized negative aspects of pediatric drowning in my opinion, but important nonetheless, is the monetary cost. The lifetime expense of caring for pediatric drowning victims runs up a bill of roughly 3 billion dollars each year.

Which kids drown?

Drowning related injury and death occurs across the pediatric spectrum but it is an entity that does discriminate to a certain degree. Young children, for instance, are considerably more likely to die compared to kids over the age of 4 years. Another way in which drowning discriminates is based on ethnicity. Although white children of all ages drown more often than any other ethnicity in the United States when looking at total numbers, black and Hispanic children have a much higher rate of drowning (1.95 versus 1.29 deaths per 100,000). In fact, the group at highest risk for drowning are black teenagers (over 4 deaths per 100,000) with white toddlers a not-too-close runner up.

There are a variety of proposed explanations regarding why minorities, in particular black children, are at such increased risk of drowning. Many black families place less emphasis on swimming as a desirable life skill, often because of a paradoxical parental fear of their child drowning. Other cultural and socioeconomic factors such as lack of access to or awareness of affordable lessons are also at play. Parents of black children are also more likely to be unable to swim themselves.

A tragic 2010 drowning incident that occurred in Shreveport, LA illustrates these concerns perfectly. 6 black teenagers drowned in the Red River when they accidentally went from waist deep water into a deeper area with a stronger current. Their parents watched helplessly. Nobody present at the scene could swim.

Where and when do children drown?

Geographically, children that live in states that experience longer and more intense summers are at higher risk. The reason for this is obvious, or at least should be. More obvious at least than the reason why ice cream consumption correlates with drowning but isn’t causally related, even if consumed less than an hour before heading back into the water. Longer and more frequent access to water is the key, and kids eat more ice cream in the summer. If you really are worried about your child drowning, move to New England. That is not the reason I’m moving there, however. I just really like lobsters and drinking out of bubblers instead of water fountains.

Younger children are much more likely to drown in bath tubs and swimming pools but have been known to drown in almost any larger containers of water including toilets, buckets, fish tanks and fountains. Even deep puddles can be dangerous. Younger children, particularly toddlers that have gained mobility through cruising/walking, have large heads and little bodies. They also have poor balance, coordination and strength. This is why you will never see a 15-month-old on an Olympic gymnastics team. They are also curious. This is a recipe for disaster if poor supervision is added to the volatile mix, and it very often is.

Older kids, mostly boys once into the 5 years of age and older group, increasingly tend to drown in open water as they age. Teenage victims are most likely to both drown in a lake, river, or ocean and to be drunk while doing so. When looking at the impact of ethnicity on drowning location, white children overall tend to drown more in backyard pools while black children are more likely to drown in public or hotel pools.

Why do children drown?

The single most important factor in pediatric drowning is the level of supervision. There are other potentially important issues like swimming ability (we’ll get to that shortly), intoxication, use of personal flotation devices (not water wings!) and medical conditions like seizure disorders, but even a seizing teenager who can’t swim and just polished off a liter of MD 20/20 would be very unlikely to drown if a sober adult is there watching closely. Although he would probably just tell you how embarrassing you are. I can’t wait for my kids to be teenagers. But despite most people being aware of the importance of proper supervision, there are frequently lapses that occur. Many drowning injuries, both fatal and nonfatal, occur when a parent or caregiver leaves the scene for only a brief period and sometimes even when they are within a few feet of the child but aren’t paying close attention. We recommend never being more than an arms length away when watching young children.

Swimming Ability and the Role of Swimming Lessons in Pediatric Drowning

Before delving into the nuances of this topic, let me be completely clear about one thing: there is absolutely no such thing as “drown-proof” young child, or any age child for that matter, regardless of their ability to swim or initiate any learned safety maneuvers. The Titanic could sink and, if they have access to a large enough body of liquid, any child can drown. The only thing that comes close to perfect prevention is direct and unwavering observation by a competent adult.

So does swimming instruction decrease the risk of drowning? This question isn’t exactly on par with whether or not parachute use prevents “death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge.” Common sense would seem to tell us that of course there must be a decrease in the risk of drowning as the ability to swim increases, and for what it is worth I believe it myself. But common sense, as we all know, often steers us in the wrong direction. Intuition on the other hand…

In older swimmers, the relationship is the most plausible but remains unproven because of a dearth of good evidence. Better swimmers likely spend more time in and around water and may take risks a less proficient swimmer wouldn’t, so it isn’t entirely implausible that there may actually be an increased risk of an incident. Also, as I attempted to make clear earlier, swimming proficiency certainly doesn’t remove the risk of drowning entirely. In one study, 16% of victims of drowning fatalities were reported to be average or strong swimmers. Remember, a majority of adolescents who drown are in open water and many are intoxicated.

In children ages 1 to 4 years the benefit of swimming ability and instruction, regardless of whether or not it specifically includes emergency maneuvers like rolling onto the back and floating/kicking for the pool edge, is less clear. Pediatricians have had a number of very plausible concerns and until recently there was a complete lack of any good data to work with. Also, there was data to support the fear that parents of young children enrolled in swimming programs might develop a false sense of security and increase the likelihood of poor supervision. Or that those children who have taken part in such a program may be less fearful of water and more likely to attempt to swim while not being observed.

As I stated earlier, for years the AAP came down firmly against swimming instruction under age 4 years, citing a lack of neurological maturity, but relaxed their position in 2010 based on a few new studies that showed a possible benefit. These studies were small and I believe should be considered preliminary. They probably should be interpreted as showing that there doesn’t appear to be any increased risk rather than conclusively showing that there is great benefit. And they don’t address which type of instruction might work best or whether the apparent small decrease in drowning risk is because of improved supervision, as many programs teach general water safety, rather than any new skill the child might have learned.

The current AAP statement includes language to the effect that the evidence, as weak as it is, does not support prohibition nor does it support a blanket recommendation in favor of swimming lessons in this age group. It depends on the child’s readiness and that must be determined by the caregiver and physician. The AAP still strongly discourages programs dedicated to infants less than 1 year of age because there is no evidence whatsoever of decreased risk of drowning.

The American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness agrees with the AAP but pushes the age up to 2 years. They specifically disagree with claims that instruction in back floating prevents drowning in very young children. This issue has required addressing by pediatricians and water safety experts because there are a large number of programs specifically targeting infants down to 6 months. Check out the first video on this site and see if it nauseates you as much as it did me.

Again, there is no evidence that this actually saves lives. What dramatic anecdotes like this rely on is a normal reflex seen in aquatic mammals (and penguins), including humans to a lesser degree, known as the diving reflex. When the face of an infant is exposed to cold water, the heart slows down and blood is shifted away from the peripheral muscles to conserve oxygen for the brain and heart, and they typically hold their breath. The reflex is much stronger in the young, and allows for prolonged submersion under water, something useful for whales but less so for human infants.

This can’t be taught, despite what some programs claim. Physicians, however, can sometimes take advantage of this reflex to treat a condition called supraventricular tachycardia but it does have risk. A bag of ice water to the face might correct a heart rate of 250 secondary to SVT but in children with long QT syndrome, a cardiac rhythm problem that predisposes to sudden death, the diving reflex can trigger a fatal arrhythmia. Thankfully this is a very rare occurrence.

Another aspect of exposing young infants to submersion is spasm of the respiratory muscles when the oral cavity and upper airway is hit with cold water. This non-painful reflex does typically prevent aspiration of water into the lungs for brief periods but it does not prevent the swallowing of large amounts of water, which is common. For this reason, diluting the level of sodium in the blood is a potentially deadly outcome in infants submerged in water several times in a short period of time. Some programs are aware of this risk and claim to limit the number of submersions per session in infants.

The cold water required for the diving reflex to kick in also predisposes young infants to hypothermia. Additionally, exposure to pools is a risk for gut and respiratory infections as well as respiratory illness caused by the chemicals used to treat the water. These risks are not extreme, but taking into account the complete lack of any evidence of benefit, I believe that the AAP and other safety organizations are right to frown upon these programs and focus on educating adults on proper supervision and water/boating safety.

What can you do to prevent pediatric drowning?

There are steps to take even if you don’t personally have children. Most importantly, never leave a child under your care alone while they are in or around enough water to drown in, even for a few seconds. If you happen upon one while looking for sea glass, be a good citizen. Avoid distractions and don’t rely on other children to alert you in case of trouble.

Putting an appropriate fence around your home pool is a proven means of decreasing the risk of pediatric drowning. It must provide a complete barrier separating the pool from the house and yard. It should have a self-latching gate and be difficult to climb or squeeze through but not obstruct the view of the pool. Pool covers on the other hand have not been proven to be an adequate substitution for proper fencing and some are dangerous because a child can become entangled. The same goes for pool alarms.

Avoid, if possible, allowing younger children to swim in areas where a lifeguard is not present if you can’t be a good observer and learn CPR. Learn to swim and, yes, make sure your kids know how to swim. If you want to start them after age 1, that is an individual decision but discuss it with their doctor. Definitely start lessons once they are 4 years of age. All young children, and all children on a boat, should wear a lifejacket-type personal flotation device. Make sure that pool drains have appropriate covers to avoid a child becoming entrapped or entangled under the water. Talk to your older kids about pool safety, especially avoiding alcohol while swimming or boating, and don’t drink and supervise yourself. Oh, and always wear sunscreen.

For a more complete breakdown of water safety, check out this handout from the AAP.

Posted in: Basic Science, Public Health

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23 thoughts on “Infant and Toddler Swimming Programs: Are They Safe and Effective?

  1. Jeremy says:

    Thank you for posting this. As an EMT whoa couple years ago responded to a toddler’s drowning death, I have been acutely concerned with pool safety ever since. It affected me greatly and I hope to never see another. The more science based information we have, the closer we will get to that.

  2. Chris says:

    The only reason I brought my kids to early swimming lessons was so I could get into the water myself (I love swimming!). The one thing I learned from the lessons at my local pool was how to actually handle a young child in the water, and this included methods to jump from a boat holding a kid.

    Plus I know from personal experience that if a young child is used to the pool they love it! I had to be even more careful if they were around water. When my older kids were at lessons in the pool, I had my toddler child in a harness with a leash to keep her from jumping in the pool (I was never given grief for that harness at the pool, on a ferry, especially the floating ferry dock with no railings).

    One child was notorious as a preschooler for letting go of me exclaiming “I go swim now” and promptly sinking to the bottom of the pool. I would bring him up, and he would be all smiles. So, yes, I knew very well that kids cannot be made drown proof. As does that particular child, who is now a college senior and is now a lifeguard at a city pool. He teaches swimming, runs a family swim night and has rescued a few swimmers. And last week he was thoroughly frustrated with his friends for removing their life jackets in the canoes when they were on the lake.

    I will add one comment: while you cannot “drown proof” a child, please take them to a pool as a toddler before signing them up for lessons. There is nothing more frustrating to an instructor than having an extremely frightened child who has never been to a pool before. Swimming pools are loud, bright and full of activity, and it can be frightening without knowing what will happen. You don’t have to swim, but just splash around with the child.

    And never, never, never ever, put a child in anything but an approved life jacket (our local public pools have a collection, and the toddler lessons often include teaching how to use them). The floaty arm bands, the suits with inflatable bladders and the swim rings not only give you a false sense of security, but tend to flip over and let the face end up in the water.

  3. Janet Camp says:

    I took my kids to “Mommy and Me” classes as babies or toddlers, but just to play in the water and get them familiar with a pool (as Chris mentions), not so much to learn to swim or with any thought to drowning prevention. Later I taught them to swim myself so they could have fun in the water. They also took lessons to learn more about safety and even lifesaving. The lessons were cheap and offered through public pools or YMCA and never made any claims about drowning prevention. It was just what you did if your kids were going to participate in family/community activities like going to a lake, a pool party, or going to the beach.

    As far as supervision, I had it drummed into me by my mother (and she by hers, no doubt) to never EVER leave a child unattended in a bathtub–not even to answer a phone or doorbell. Take the child with you, if you must attend to something.

    What on earth is it that these classes are supposed to prevent? What scenario has a toddler floating around “waiting for help”? I am coming up with the image of a sinking cruise ship (?) Note: I wasn’t bothered by the video except for wondering what the situation would be where the baby was “waiting for help”.

    Supervision can be tricky with older kids (teens). I witnessed a drowning of my 16 year old cousin when I was 13 (he had a seizure). I was the only one watching (not sure anyone even knew we had gone swimming) and when I called for help (having noticed he did not come up after a dive off the dock), the adults actually stood around waiting to see if he would appear! Finally (much too late I thought, even at 13) someone jumped in. I know it’s irrational, but I have never swum in a lake since then–pools, yes; lake, no. I did let my children, though.

  4. Mika says:

    It might be interesting to know that in Finland toddler swimming (http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vauvauinti) is a common practice and usually starts when the child is 3 to 5 months old. Its not advertised as swimming lessons or “drownproofing”, but rather as a fun activity that lets the child get familiar with and being in water. Which probably comes in handy when the actual swimming lessons start in (pre)school. It’s been a while since I was in school, but I think the stated goal was that every kid should gain a basic level of swimming skills.

    Anyone who supervises swimming people would do well to familiarise themselves with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinctive_drowning_response

  5. Denise D. says:

    Last summer, my family (husband, two teenagers, sister in law and myself) saw two drowned children removed from Lake Erie. We first became aware of the situation when we saw the six-year-old boy being brought to shore, the rescuer performing CPR on an unconscious child lying on a surfboard. After the air ambulance removed him to a children’s hospital, the paramedics announced that a girl was still missing and asked for volunteers. So we dragged the lake: a rope hundreds of feet long was extended, and nearly everybody at the beach clung to the rope and kicked with our feet until the ten year old girl was found, after about an hour.

    Both children, brother and sister, died. They had been sent by their parents to play at the beach along with a 14 year old sister, NONE OF WHOM COULD SWIM. I feel nothing but compassion for the parents, migrant farm workers from Mexico, who possibly never had access to swimming lessons for their kids.

    Here in North America, we are blessed with a plethora of waterways and enjoy the bounty of most of the world’s supply of fresh water. Surely swimming lessons should be part of the public educational curriculum, sending students over to rec centres if there isn’t a pool in the school to make sure kids acquire what is demonstrably an essential life skill. As it stands, swimming lessons only happen if parents have the wherewithal to make sure their kids get them. Given how these tragedies occur again and again every summer without fail, surely the lack of accessibility to free swimming lessons for everybody is an abject failure of our political leaders to enact evidence-based policy making at a most basic and life-saving level.

    1. Chris says:

      “Surely swimming lessons should be part of the public educational curriculum, sending students over to rec centres if there isn’t a pool in the school to make sure kids acquire what is demonstrably an essential life skill.”

      They are available at some public schools here, though usually when a pool is located near the public pool. Many of the public indoor pools are connected to community centers where the after school programs can offer swimming lessons as part of the program (though usually in the summer when they are the full time daycare of many of those children).

      I know in the past the local parks department provided vouchers for third/fourth graders to take a few week long swim class. With a bit more poking around, I noticed that there are still free and reduced swim lessons being offered. This includes beaches where the lifeguard will offer a free lesson at a set time, and other options. Kind of important in a city that is bounded by a fjord on one side, a long lake on the other and has lots of lakes: Learn to Swim.

    2. Pattie says:

      Swim lessons for kids is key. By the time they reach their teens, it’s a far tougher sell. At my university, Penn State, before 1983, students and faculty believed that everyone was required to pass a (very basic) swimming test in order to graduate. (This was later challenged, and it was found that the requirement was not a formal one, so people stopped taking the remedial swimming classes offered to those who failed the test). My friend Sonja and two of her girlfriends, who all grew up in a city and could not swim, thought the requirment was racist, because black people like themselves were less likely to be able to swim. I didn’t understand the resistance to taking swimming as one of 3 required gym classes, but my own husband, who also grew up in the city and can’t swim, pointed out that no one who is at or near adulthood wants to admit that they can’t do something the most children can do. No matter how sensible it is, taking swim lessons as an adult can be embarrassing,

      Sadly, Sonja’s two friends drowned late one night at the local quarry, where the employees of a bar/restaurant had gone one night after their shift. It is believed that one fell in, and the other one tried to save her.

    3. Lovleanjel says:

      I went to public school in Illinois, which means I had to take gym every semester. My high school had a pool, which was costly and thus used as much as possible. Thus, every semester we spent a few weeks in the pool. You would fail if you did not participate. Every freshman class spent time on remedial swimming, and everyone had to pass a swimming test in their first year. It was by far the most useful aspect of the Illinois gym requirements.

  6. BillyJoe says:

    The only drowning of someone I knew was a girl with epilepsy, newly married, who locked the bathroom door (presumably out of habit as she obviously didnt need to lock her husband out) to take a shower. She had a convulsion and fell over the drain hole. The shower base filled with two inches of water just enough to cover her mouth and noise. Her husband heard what was happening but was unable to break in soon enough to save her.

    I suppose the lesson here is that anyone with epilepsy should not use showers with a built in base. The water must be able to run off into a secondary drain outside the shower itself. Suffice to say that they should not have unsupervised baths.

    1. BillyJoe says:

      Btw, Clay, I don’t like to complain about grammatical errors, but I think you’ve broken the record. Also, please remember that your readers are not all from the northern hemisphere, let alone the USA.

      1. Clay Jones says:

        I don’t like to complain about unhelpful comments about grammar, so I just don’t. Drowning happens all over the world. The process is the same and the best means of preventing it, direct and close supervision, is the same regardless of where you are.

      2. calliarcale says:

        I thought his post was entirely understandable. If you think that’s a record, you haven’t seen Yahoo comments…..

    2. Chris says:

      I remember as a child when my then three year old little sister constantly locking herself in the bathroom, and then not being able to get out. Plus according to my mother-in-law her then three year old son was locked in his grandparents’ bathroom in the Netherlands, and he could not understand their Dutch.

      So when we built our house we did not bother with doors with locks. They also happen to be mahogany doors from a hotel that went massive remodeling, and the pre-1920 doors are not wide enough for wheelchairs. The only bathroom in the house with a lock is in the basement, and it is the kind that you can unlock with a hairpin through the center of the knob (much like how I got my little sister out of the bathroom).

      And, of course, most children drown in tubs, and need to be watched. Which is really why my youngest often got her baths in the laundry sink where I could see her only a couple of meters away in the kitchen. As a college student, she now uses that laundry sink (which has a short hose connected to the faucet) to help dye her hair.

  7. calliarcale says:

    I’m a big proponent of water safety instruction. Our local school district offers Red Cross certified classes. They are not part of the regular school curriculum, alas; I do think it would help if they were, especially here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. They do offer courses for infants and toddlers, but require parent attendance; the child is held through the entire lesson, and the sneaky part is that it’s really the *adult* that is receiving the instruction. Oh, the child is getting familiarized with the water, and that’s very helpful for later when they start taking real classes, but the instructors use the opportunity to teach the parents how to keep their kids safe around the water. I think it’s a great idea, and I hope it reduces the number of kids swimming unsupervised. Really, nobody, not even an adult, should swim alone. Even highly competent swimmers have drowned. That’s how William Shatner lost his wife, for instance. Tragic, but people don’t realize just how easy it is to drown.

    1. Chris says:

      When my dad was Korea we lived in Bloomington, MN. What was great about the junior high I went to that year was that it had a swimming pool!

      Every 7th grader had to take PE. The PE classes were divided into groups based on swimming ability. So those who did not know how to swim were given lessons during one half semester, and the rest of us were taught how to improve our swimming.

      What made me happy was that I was in the group that had swimming in the spring half-semester, and our track section was in the middle of winter, which meant bringing in ice skates and going to the outdoor rink across the street!

      It was awesome! Almost as awesome as the self-paced math program that let me do almost two years of math, so that at my next school the following year I got to take Algebra in 8th grade. Which allowed me to graduate a year early from high school without missing trigonometry.

      1. calliarcale says:

        Hey, I’m in Bloomington right now! That’s awesome. I went to school on the other side of the river, though; our district offered swimming lessons to junior high students as part of the phy ed requirement, because we had a pool. But that was the only school with a pool; the high school didn’t offer swimming lessons, and now that my old district has two junior highs, only the one with the pool offers swimming. It should be more ubiquitous, IMHO. We didn’t get to go ice skating at all, because the rink our hockey team used was nowhere near any of the schools. I’m jealous! :-D

        1. Chris says:

          It was Portland Jr. High in the early 1970s. The ice rink was an area in the park the city flooded to create an ice rink (I think it was used for basketball in the summer). There was also a smaller rink in a park near the townhouses we lived in (Georgetown?), which was then across a major road from the Metropolitan Stadium, which was replaced with the Mall of the Americas.

          The middle school my hubby went to in a suburb on the other side of Lake Washington also had a swimming pool. It is now opened up to the public for swims and lessons depending on parks department budgets.

          1. calliarcale says:

            It’s just “Mall of America”. The Met Center eventually came down too; there’s an Ikea there now. I think those townhouses are still there. Were you east of Cedar, or west? I think Portland Junior High was torn down and replaced with Valley View Middle School; I’m not totally sure, though. My old junior high got torn down too, over in West St Paul; I went and spat on the rubble, which gave considerable satisfaction. :-D I grew up in West St Paul; we had public swimming pools and ice rinks (both indoor and outdoor) as well; no rinks within walking distance of the school, though, so no skating phy ed. *pouts*

        2. Chris says:

          Ah, thanks for the correction.

          It was forty years ago, and I really can’t remember the names of the streets, and we lived there for one year. I tried to recognize landmarks a bit over a year ago when we flew in for my son’s surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Honestly, the absolutely only thing I recognized was Ft. Snelling, where I did go for some vaccines before heading to the Panama Canal Zone. It looked so sad and abandoned.

          I took a drama class at either a high or junior high during the summer, which was fun. There was this odd bus service that picked us up and drove all over Bloomington to get all the students home. One substitute driver got kind of lost and we ended driving around the back area of the airport. Totally surreal.

          I did not mind the junior high there because it allowed me to advance ahead in math. Which in turned allowed me to escape from the hades known as high school a full year early. :-) (plus I only attended two high schools instead of three, half as many as my brother… we did move around a bit)

          Oddly enough, my daughter has the same attitude towards high school as I did. She spent her last year of high school going to community college.

  8. Casey says:

    I’m from Baton Rouge too :). I’m a big fan/lurker of this site, and this article caught my attention because the topic of how effective ISR is has come up fairly often in the local moms groups that I’m in. Thanks for stressing how important supervision is no matter how proficient the swimmer is!

  9. Nikki says:

    I attend bubbles swim school in San diego CA and I find the water safety classed for toddlers very helpful. Not only do they teach them how to roll over and relax, but they also teach them how swim- not doggy paddle from one point to another, which is essential to being able to find the edge up the pool hold on and climb out, which they are also taught. My son has been able to jump off a diving board and swim the entire length of the pool at age 3..one girl in his class is now working on her backstroke..she is 4 years old and swimming now without rollovers (breathing spot only). I have been to some pool parties with kids wearing floaties, or just hanging out on the edge in the shallow end that have fallen in, they sunk like rocks and don’t know what to do to even get to the edge which could save their lives. Start kids off young, get the comfortable in the water, and teach them the skills they need in case they get in a pinch. They are much better off than the kids that are afraid and know nothing but crutches( floatation devices)

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