By Mark Collins

The lockdowns of 2020 affected many things for children and their parents, but one side-effect that may not be completely obvious to parents is the significant drop in swim skills in their children.

Swimming lessons were cancelled due to government restrictions across most states (and in some locations, multiple times throughout the year). This meant the peak swimming lesson period from March to June was missed by most, and in Victoria, a staggering seven months went by where all swim schools were closed.

Usually, it can take as little as three weeks for a child’s swim skills to drop off – so you can imagine the effect of months without swimming practice. Meanwhile, children’s confidence around water tends to remain high as they expect they can swim just like they could last time they were in the water.

It’s a worrying combination of facts that mean this year is one of the most dangerous we’re facing. A report from Swim Australia at the end of 2020 also found that 41 per cent of families would not think about swimming lessons for at least the next 12 months.

For those spending holidays by the water this summer and also around Easter (think camping near rivers and lakes) it’s important to keep water safety front of mind – even more so than usual!

Due to the pandemic, many parents cancelled their child’s swimming lessons.

Here are a few simple things parents can do to ensure their children stay safe:

  • Talk to your children actively about water and water safety and the fact they may need a bit of practice before they’re back to swimming at the same level they were earlier in the year.
  • Ideally, be in the water with your kids.
  • Set ground rules with your kids before you arrive at the location eg. stay in the shallow, stay between the flags, always hold my hand, no running.
  • Only swim in areas that are manned by a lifeguard.
  • Don’t assume your child is at the same swimming skill level they were at the start of 2020. It may be that children who were confidently able to stay afloat in the water may now need assistance.
  • Make grandparents and other carers aware that your child’s swimming skills may be a little rusty and encourage them to alter their plans accordingly if need be (eg. instead of going to the pool with grandma perhaps it’s safter to play in the sprinkler).

It can take as little as three weeks for a child’s swim skills to drop off but their confidence around water tends to remain high.

  • Remember that water accidents don’t always happen when your children are actively swimming and dressed in their bathers. They may be riding their bike along a lake, on a walk near a jetty or boat ramp or playing in a backyard that has a dam.
  • Get kids back to lessons as soon as you can and consult your swim teacher to ensure they’re in the right class for their current skill level (which may be different from their previous level).

Being more aware, extra cautious and making the right decisions could save a life! 

This article was written by Mark Collins, who leads a team of highly experienced swimming instructors across Australia at JUMP! Swim Schools. JUMP! offers boutique facilities where children can learn to swim in an intimate setting. For more information head to: www.jumpswimschools.com.au.