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Reading, writing, arithmetic and water safety

By Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, a mom, wife and Red Cross staff/volunteer based in Nanaimo, British Columbia. 

When our daughter Ruby was six months old, we enrolled in Red Cross lessons at our local pool. Those first few lessons were tough, with a crying unhappy baby but we stuck with it. Very quickly Ruby started to gain confidence, and with that a love of the water. She is so proud of every level she completes and looks forward to spending time at the pool each week. This past winter Ruby started synchronized swimming, and those Red Cross swimming lessons helped her pick up the choreography and strokes more quickly.  Those basic swimming skills are the foundation of all water activities like diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, skim boarding and more. 
Ruby playing in water
Swimming is an important life skill. As a parent, I am confident Ruby could safely make her way to the edge of the pool if she fell in accidentally. A skill she learned through the Red Cross program. Ruby now knows to flip onto her back and use her legs to push herself to the edge, conserving energy. A skill she practices regularly after a long day in the water.

Water safety is always my first priority; the reason I initially signed Ruby up for swimming lessons. Living on the west coast, we spend time around beaches and lakes, kayaking and swimming. Water is a part of life on the coast and having the basic skills to be safe is critical – for both kids and adults.  
Treading water is a swimming skill the kids continue to practice at every level of instruction. It is a required skill when kayaking or jumping off the dock - EVEN while wearing a PFD. As an adult, I have spent countless hours treading water near the dock or near a diving board or at the side of the pool providing safety support to kids as they jump into deeper water. These skills stay with us for a lifetime. 

While on vacation in Mexico, I was standing in the pool while Ruby was jumping off the edge and practicing her backstroke. A little girl about 18 monthPortrait of Ruby in pools toddled into the pool and right off the drop off – silently. It was her four-year-old brother that alerted everyone she was in the water. I was about six feet away, and I didn’t see her go under. Her grandmother jumped in, fully clothed and thankfully the little girl was ok. It was a stark reminder that even at a very young age our kids should have swimming basics, knowing how to get to the edge of the pool, wear a flotation device, and never be more than an arms length away with our attention focused on the kids. For Ruby it was an opportunity to talk about water safety and reinforce why we do swimming lessons.

At eight, and I’m convinced Ruby is part mermaid, spending as much time in the water as possible. This fall Ruby will take on Swim Kids 6 and is already planning to be a Red Cross swimming instructor as a teen.

To sign up for Red Cross Swim programs, contact your local pool. For more information, check out 

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