Following viral video, critics question teaching babies to swim

Following viral video, critics question teaching babies to swim

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by ANN SHERIDAN / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @SheridanWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:58 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The kids at Little Otter Swim School are busy learning to enjoy the water this summer.  And while some will learn how to swim, many of the babies in the program are simply getting acquainted with the water.  The place is busy every day.

Little Otter Aquatic Director Stewart Issacs spoke to NBC Charlotte reporter Ann Sheridan about a YouTube video that showed a 16-month-old swimming across a pool in Texas.  The video went viral, and prompted criticism and praise of the father who took it.

Is 16 months too young to learn how to swim?  Most water safety experts say teaching a baby to swim or crawl across a pool requires an aggressive format, and isn't a good idea for most children. Still, there are skills that are appropriate for young children.

First, experts say, parents should plan to be in the pool with babies and toddlers as they learn to respect the water. The drills should be fun and playful.  With the help of parents and instructors, young children can begin to learn important life saving skills.

Issacs showed off the drills that could help children in a water emergency.

The first is the "jump and turn," where a child learns how to jump in the water, and then turn and grab the side of the pool. It's important for babies who might not have the motor skills to really swim, but might be able to grab the side of the pool.

The second skill is for older children, called the "rollover breath."  In the skill taught at Little Otter, children are learning to roll over in a water emergency.  The rollover gives a child a chance to relax on their back, get a good breath and call for help if needed.

Can a baby learn these drills? 

"We have 2 year olds who can do the independent rollovers, but in all reality, you should always be supervised.  A child is never drown proof," said Issacs.

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