At what age can I teach my child self-rescue lessons?

Self-rescue survival lessons are an important part of every child’s life. The good news is you can start these lessons at a very young age.

 Have you ever considered teaching your child self-rescue survival swimming lessons but thought they were too young? Would you believe you can teach a child self-rescue from the age of just six months old?

Is it enough that your child can swim by their fourth birthday, or do they need lessons on how to survive in water at an earlier age?

We chat with Anneliza Van Der Schyff, a Certified ISR instructor based in Zwartkop, Centurion, for more on the topic of Infant Swimming Rescue (ISR) self-rescue for babies under a year old.

Drownings in South Africa

According to Statistics South Africa, fatal drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional death in the country with an estimated 350 children who die by drowning each year.

Did you know that drowning can happen within 20 seconds?  When someone drowns, they experience extreme breathing difficulty because they are submerged in water/liquid and their airways are being blocked.

It’s common to panic as you try and hold your breath while struggling to stay above water. Once you begin to swallow water/liquid, your reflux responses will be triggered which causes you to cough. With a lack of oxygen being delivered to the brain, it can take a few minutes before severe damage occurs.

Self-rescue versus swimming lessons

Anneliza explains that ISR self-rescue is not the same as swimming lessons. It’s lessons that teach kids what to do if they ever encounter a problem while in the pool or if they accidentally fall inside. It does not involve floaties or teaching them different strokes. The survival swimming programme is a 5-7 week course, scheduled five days per week, Monday through to Friday. The lessons are for 10 minutes each day.

“Children as young as 6-months can be on the programme learning the skill of rolling onto their backs to float, rest, and breathe. They learn to maintain this position until help arrives,” Anneliza says.

According to Anneliza, older children learn the “sequence of swimming until they need air, rotating onto their back to float, then rolling back over to continue swimming.” ISR instructors are well trained, meaning that parents can have the confidence of knowing that their children are in safe hands. Parents are also educated as part of the program because “your education in the area of aquatic safety for your entire family is an integral part of your child’s lessons” Anneliza says.

Watch a video below of how ISR works: