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Everybody in the Pool!

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Vivian Manning-Schaffel: Bust out the bug spray and the slather on the SPF: Memorial Day weekend is FINALLY upon us! And most likely, the impending summer heat will inspire us to seek out bodies of water to splash in. Momlogic consulted Lisa Cook, founder of L.A.-area swim school KidSwim, for tips on keeping your small swimmers safe.

family using and sitting by the pool

ML: Is there a right age to teach kids to swim?

Lisa Cook: Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Red Cross recommend formal swim instruction at age four. At that point, kids' core muscles and spines are stronger, they are more coordinated, and they have a greater capacity for following directions.

But it's actually preferable to start exposing kids to being in water from infancy. Something about exposing kids to water young and in a really benevolent way gets them past fears and lays the foundation so they catch on in a lesson or two when they are old enough.

ML: Say you live somewhere without a beach or pool and only get the opportunity to swim once or twice a year on vacation. How can parents get their kids comfortable enough to enjoy this brief exposure to water?

Lisa Cook: Water safety is an abstract concept to kids. Focus on play in the water. Get them relaxed and slyly incorporate skills into the play. Get some goggles, use lots of toys to get kids to go under and pick up cool things, make blowing bubbles a game, show them how to kick. Make a game of it by engaging their imaginations. As they get more comfortable, they will get more adventurous on their own. Want to know a big swim instructor secret? Often times, kids learn to swim on vacation because hotel pools are shallow enough where kids can stand. This way, the child is more inclined to dog-paddle and kick because they know they have control of the situation.

ML: What are the best water safety accessories to use in introducing your child to water play?

Lisa Cook: The best possible scenario is the parent physically holding and playing with the child in the water without flotation devices. This allows your child to feel the water in its natural state. Once you add a floatie ring or a vest, you are altering the child's natural state in the water. It's like a pacifier -- your child needs it to feel safe and ultimately you have to do more work to wean the child off of it. If you have to get one, use a garment with the flotation device sewn in at the waist. Rings and floaties can easily become dislodged and cause your child to swallow water.

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