New Zealand has one of the worst rates of drowning among under-fives in the Western world, yet one simple survival technique learned in childhood could help to change that.
The ‘bounce to breathe’ technique, which YMCA Auckland teaches under-fives, is where little ones learn to push off with their feet from the bottom of the pool and kick their way up to the surface.
The technique is not taught until a little one has mastered basic breath control – the art of taking a breath above water and holding their breath underwater, explains YMCA Auckland Swim School quality services manager Karla McCaughan.
The YMCA runs programmes for three-month-olds up to five-year-olds, and has joined forces with Plunket and the Auckland Council to run their not-for-profit swim programmes out of eight Auckland pools at half price, from April 29, so that more children are able to learn this technique.
The pools include: Lagoon Pool and Leisure Centre, Onehunga War Memorial Pool, Cameron Pool and Leisure Centre, Glen Innes Pool and Leisure Centre, Tepid Baths, West Wave Pool and Leisure Centre, Albany Stadium Pool, and Manurewa Pool and Leisure Centre.
Another five council pools will be added over the next three years.
Even though New Zealand is moving into its colder months, teaching your children to swim is relevant, so that children are prepared for the next summer swimming season or for going away on holiday where it’s summer in another country, the trio points out.
Drowning was the number one cause of recreational death in 2018, and the second highest cause of death as a result of unintentional injury among one to 24-year-olds.
The trio hopes to reduce the drowning rate of under-fives in New Zealand to zero, but says this will require a nation-wide effort.
For more information go to www.ymcaauckland.org.nz/plunketswimming
To keep your little one safe in the water:
Watch your child at all times, and stay within arm’s length of them
Put your phone and other distractions down while your child is in the water
If you have an inflatable pool, empty it and turn it upside down after each and every use
Invest in swimming lessons for your child – a child is less likely to panic in the water if they are used to being in water, and are water-confident.