Safety First

Bear Paddle Swim School wants water safety to be on the mind of every parent Summer, swimming and fun go together perfectly, but parents should still make sure they’re prepared before they head to the pool or ocean, says Bear Paddle Swim School co-owner Spencer Rice.

“Kids will see others swimming and they’re not able to process that they can’t do it on their own,” he says. “So we have to educate them as much as possible and as early as possible that this is a dangerous situation.”

Bear Paddle Swim School, which has locations in Oakley (3099 Disney St.), Mason (9376 Mason Montgomery Road) and Florence, Kentucky (4012 Seligman Drive), teaches children as young as six months old how to survive if they should fall into water. It starts with what Rice calls a Humpty Dumpty—in a controlled environment, kids “fall” from the pool wall and learn a reflex that has them turn and swim to the wall.

“They can do that with less ability and skill than it takes to be able to flip over on your back and sustain yourself,” says Rice. By the third level, children are taught how to flip and float on their backs. Class sizes are small, with a maximum of three students per class in level one and a maximum of four students for level two and above.

Rice says that water safety is part of Bear Paddle Swim School’s mission, which is why the school offers free presentations on the subject to preschools and other child-focused facilities. The school’s mascot, Paddle the Bear, and a friend teach kids about water safety around almost any body of water, from a pool or ocean to the bathtub. “A lot of the education is directed at the parents, too,” adds Rice.

In addition to teaching water safety and survival techniques, Bear Paddle Swim School also teaches the fundamentals of swimming.

“[Levels] four through seven really focus on stroke development for swimmers to be able to have a skill that will last them a lifetime and also provide that foundation should they ever want to be on a swim team or swim competitively,” says Rice.

While traditional swim classes are often purchased in sessions, Rice says that Bear Paddle offers month-to-month classes so that parents can determine how quickly they would like their children to learn. Students can graduate to the next level at any time. Families can bring their children for a lesson a week, or even every day if they wish. Bear Paddle also offers what it calls “family swim” for families who would like some more practice.

“We look at that as a chance for the families to really get in and practice the skills,” says Rice. “The volume of time in the water is a major factor [in learning to swim well].”

During the summer, kids can get more scheduled time in the pool thanks to Bear Paddle’s swim camps. Not a traditional camp, the swim camps are instead two weeks of swim lessons, with four lessons each week. “For the families that are really thinking, ‘OK, we’ve got [vacation] coming up and we want to get this done and we want to get this child to the next level of swimming, camps are a great way to do that,” says Rice.

Whatever a parent chooses to do, Rice just wants families to be safe when it comes to the water. “As a child, you can fall down in the water and it doesn’t hurt. It’s sunshine. It’s outside. We’re with our friends. However, there’s a lot of dangers.”

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