Swimming Stress

I posted on our Facebook page the other day, asking parents whether I'm the only one who gets frustrated during swimming registration time. Apparently I'm not alone! We've been kind of lazy when it comes to swimming. I took our oldest for a lesson when she was 4 months old, and then promptly forgot to sign her up for anything after that for a couple of years. In all honesty, I'm not sure that early swimming lessons actually do anything to promote swimming ability. It's kind of like potty training - if they're not ready, then you won't have a lot of success.

However, that's not to say that introduction to the water (and getting wet) isn't a good thing! Our daughter is now 4.5, and making some good progress in her lessons.

But swimming registration? How frustrating!! Our city offers fantastic programming, but trying to register your child for a particular time spot is a nightmare. Online registration opens at 9pm, and the site usually crashes due to overwhelming demand. If you wait even 24 hours, chances are, your preferred spaces are gone. And trying to register more than one child in the same time slot? Forget it!

I completely forgot about winter registration, and ended up getting the last spot available for both my girls - 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It's been tough, let me tell you. We're usually up by 7am, but by the time we eat and get dressed, we're often rushing out the door (or late for class).

However, we noticed a benefit to early Sunday morning - small class sizes, without having to pay for "low ratio." So when Spring registration began this past Monday, I couldn't believe that I actually chose the 8:30 spot :) This time, though, our 17 month-old won't be taking part. The water is freezing, and she just doesn't enjoy it much at this age. So 8:30 seems more doable with just one child.

Where's your favourite place to swim in Ottawa?

A little running around

I'm enamoured with the new Richcraft Community Centre in Kanata. It's not too far a drive from our home in Stittsville and the pool is nice and warm. I signed my daughter up for swimming lessons there and we discovered that right as her lessons end there is open gym time for kids up to 6 years. Now that's our plan for Tuesdays – swimming lessons followed by open gym time. The open gym is $2.25 for us but free for members, and well worth the cost for an hour of running around, playing with balls and ribbons and everything else the staff pulls out for fun and games.

New style goaltending

Richcraft is not the only community centre to offer the open gym time, you can check the city website to see when your local community centre has some time for play.

We're going to be inviting some friends for next week!

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It's summertime! Let's all stay safe when swimming

Over Victoria Day weekend, my family had an impromptu invite to go to a friend's cottage by the lake. So, I packed up the car, threw Brandon in and we escaped! (Kidding...we gave my dear husband a chance to get caught up on tons of stuff he wanted to do.)

Today, my friend texted me this picture that was taken on our trip to the cottage and I uploaded it to Instagram because Brandon was so cute concentrating on swimming. It prompted the following conversation:

My little chat with Alison got me thinking, though. Swim safety is so important to prevent anyone from having an incident in the water, but it's particularly important for children who are naturally the most vulnerable. According to the Lifesaving Society's 2011 report [PDF, 1.9MB], approximately 500 people die each year in Canada from drowning, and most are swimming when they get into trouble.

Get the proper equipment for water activities, starting with a good lifejacket for weak or non-swimmers and any child under 5.

Having a cute swimsuit is fun, but a functional life-saving device, a.k.a, lifejacket, is more important. Anytime he was by the lake, Brandon had to be wearing his life jacket. He floated out beyond where his feet could touch the bottom numerous times, thinking it was a fun game when our host pushed him back to shore with the dinghy. If he hadn't been wearing a good lifejacket, that "game" wouldn't have been fun at all.

I also consulted the Lifesaving Society's drowning and water safety guidelines and here's what they had to say for children:

  • Restrict and control access to the water. Enclose backyard pools on all four sides with a fence and a self-latching, self-closing gate; drain bathtubs when not in use; empty unattended wading pools and buckets.
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating. Toddlers should wear a lifejacket anytime they are near water.
  • Stay within arms’ reach of young children when they are near water – in the backyard, the beach and in the bathroom.
  • Go to lifeguard-supervised beaches and pools.
  • Learn to swim. Enroll children in swimming lessons and in a swimming survival program such as the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive.
  • In the winter, check ice before going out on it – clear, hard, new ice is the safest for travel. Avoid slushy or moving ice and ice that has thawed and refrozen.

HA! That last one just amuses me at this time of year, but it's serious business in the spring and fall.

BONUS! Don't forget to pack the sunscreen and drink lots of water.

I do not tan - never have, never will - and my son has inherited my pale genes, but even if you do tan, it's not safe to stay in the sun for prolonged periods without some protection. Trust me - after a sunburn that blistered (badly) when I was twelve and forgot my sunscreen for a canoe trip, I do everything I can to avoid getting burnt.

These recent hot, hot, hot days are great if you like the heat, but don't bask in it too long without staying hydrated.

What other rules do you have for water safety in your family?

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Karen Wilson is a wife to Matt and mom to Brandon (4), who blogs about her life at Karen’s Chronicles. She can be found at Wellman Wilson, helping business use social media more effectively. Lately, she’s also busy planning a little conference and doing her part to keep the coffee industry alive.

Swimming Success!

by Amanda Y Well after that teaser week of summer in Ottawa, it has made me start itching for the real thing so we can go swimming regularly up at the cottage.  Since he was 3 (now almost 5) J has regularly been taking swimming lessons through the City of Ottawa.  The first round of lessons was really an adjustment period because he refused to participate for the most of the lessons.  He would get in the water but not cooperate with the instructor.  However, since then he has been quite happy about going, some of the tasks are hit or miss with him, he doesn't love having water in his face or ears, but over time, things have improved.  The spring session started last week and I swear, that was a totally different kid in the water!  He was dunking his head, happily floating on his back, front float has improved drastically, he will actually put his face in the water, tentatively, but he used to outright refuse!  He loves to play the games like "What time is it Mr. Wolf?" and "Red light green light" It's too bad the lessons are only 30 minutes long, I think he would benefit from a longer lesson, even another 15 minutes would be great!

The City of Ottawa's Learn to Swim Program offers the Red Cross swimming levels.  They include Parent and Me classes, Preschool classes, and School-Aged program (up to 12 yrs old).

Not only are swimming lessons fun, but swimming is also a very important skill for a child to have.  Many people have a fear of water and so having lessons in childhood can help to prevent this.  Fear leads to panic and if you panic in the water, the outcome is terrible.  Just knowing how to handle yourself in the water can prevent so many accidental drownings.  Of course, even the best swimmers can drown, and I highly promote the use of life jackets in boats and on inexperienced swimmers in deep water.  Simply knowing how to float and keep your head above water is a critical skill, in my opinion.  I am a strong swimmer, my parents insisted we take swimming lessons and I am doing the same for J.  It is also the kind of class that grows with the child.  They continue to build upon and learn new skills including rescue maneuvers and CPR.  Also something to think about:  teens who become lifeguards and swimming instructors are paid quite well.  They can work at city pools as well as summer camps earning their own money.  The benefits just keep adding up.

For information about how your teen could become a lifeguard visit the National Lifesaving Society's website.

Who knows if J will ever go that far, but what's important to me is that he learn to swim and be comfortable around water.

Amanda was born and raised in Ottawa where she continues to live with her husband and son “J”. Amanda is bilingual and interests include reading, blogging, socializing, and advocacy on children and teen issues.

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