Make swimming lessons a must

Get kids used to water early in life

Linda Sue Sutherland, senior coordinator of aquatics for the American Red Cross of Greater New York, recommends keeping a cellular or cordless phone beside the pool to use once the child has been extricated from the water. A quick assessment should be done to determine whether a call to 911 is necessary, she says.

“Everyone who’s around water with a child should be trained in CPR and first aid,” Sutherland says. “That’s everyone – a babysitter, parent, or grandparent.”

With emergency workers on their way to the scene, a caregiver who’s already armed with basic life support skills can get to work on saving the child.

Both CPR and first aid classes are available through the Red Cross, as are swimming and lifeguarding classes for parents and other caregivers. Even the instructors at municipal and private pools in the Hudson Valley generally have a Red Cross-trained instructor at the helm.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend swimming lessons until after a child’s 4th birthday, citing a lack of muscle control. But Sutherland says classes for children as young as 6 months are offered throughout the Hudson Valley just to get kids used to water.

Although they teach some of the basics that will serve students later in more formal swimming lessons, these classes are not “a drown-proofing program,” Sutherland warns.

“Sometimes you’ll see programs where they’ll drop a child into the water and expect them to be able to get back to the top,” Sutherland explains. “Ours are not like that.”

Instead, the classes put parents in the water with their child – keeping the child’s head above the surface. The children learn to enjoy kicking and splashing, while the parents get reacquainted with their own skills and learn to be comfortable with their children in the water.

Jeanne Sager is a writer and mom from Callicoon Center. Visit her at