September 20, 2014

It’s the unofficial start of summer. Does your kid know how to swim?

Many Nebraska families are planning Memorial Day weekends around water, either swimming in pools or lakes, boating, or heading to a beach. Kara Kelly, at the American Red Cross, says it’s a wise idea to first take a course from the agency in swimming or basic water safety.

“We also just want to learn those basic water skills, knowing how to float, knowing how to tread water, not being afraid to go under the surface of the water and come back up,” Kelly says. “There are basic skills folks need to have before they get into any body of water, whether it has a lifeguard or not.”

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in young children.

“What’s shocking is just 40% of parents with children ages 4 to 17 report that their child can perform those five basic swimming skills, things like floating or treading water, going down and coming back up, but more than 90% say their child will be participating in water activities.”

The list of basic skills also includes getting out of the water without a ladder and being able to swim 25 yards. Men are significantly more likely than women to know all five basic swimming skills. About one-third of blacks report they can perform all five skills compared to more than half of whites. It’s too late to get the swimming class before this holiday weekend, but Nebraskans can learn some of the basics using a smartphone.

“We have a swimming app, not to replace taking those swimming lessons, but it does have basic swimming strokes and things that folks need to learn,” Kelly says. “It’s the Red Cross Swimming App and it’s free to download on both Google Play for Android devices and the Apple Store for those Apple devices.”

This summer marks 100 years for the Red Cross offering swimming courses.