The Lifetime Benefits of Swim Lessons For Your Kids

The latest "Growing Up" column


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From soccer to gymnastics and track, lots of sports help kids build skills and burn off energy. One sport, however, offers a unique boost to lifelong fitness. Unlike many childhood pastimes, swimming lessons build skills that can translate into a lifetime of safe, effective exercise long after the cleats, ballet slippers and track shoes are put away. Regular swimming builds core strength, breath control and stamina that can enhance performance in other sports, says Jenny and Chris McCuiston, parents and founders of Goldfish Swim School, a nationwide provider of swim lessons for children with locations in Cary, Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. Here’s how to help kids make a splash, safely, whether they’re in the tot pool or the deep end.

 

EARLY YEARS
Pool Rules

Although a small study found that formal swim lessons can reduce drowning risk in children ages 1 to 4, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that preschool-age children should never be considered water safe. Before age 4, children don’t have the motor skills needed to swim independently and still need constant adult supervision in and around the water, even if they have some swimming ability.

Swim lessons, however, still benefit young kids. A study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that in addition to building physical skills, swim lessons gave kids a boost in cognitive and social development. Swim lessons at this age should focus on building basic skills, such as getting in and out of the water safely and comfortably going underwater.

Parents can help by emphasizing water safety rules, Jenny McCuiston says. “Rules are there for a reason, especially when it comes to rules for the pool. Walk, don’t run; make sure an adult is watching; no horse play. Reviewing rules together as a family before you swim helps everyone enjoy the water.” 

 

ELEMENTARY YEARS
Just Keep Swimming

By grade school, kids may have the strength, stamina and control needed to master more complex swimming skills, from freestyle breathing to flip turns. With regular swim lessons and practice, a school-age child likely feels more confident in and around the water, and may have passed a swim test or two. At this point, families may be tempted to quit lessons and devote time and energy to other pursuits — after all, the kids already know how to swim, right? Not so fast. There’s good reason to continue with lessons and practice into the tween and teen years, says Matti Svoboda, owner of Blue Dolphins Aquatics in Chapel Hill.

“Every spring when parents come for refresher lessons, they’re surprised at how much their child has forgotten since last summer,” she says. “Just like any other physical activity, kids should keep swimming multiple times throughout the year, whether it be in lessons or free swim, so they don’t lose the muscle memory, endurance and stamina they’ve gained.” 

 

TEEN YEARS 
Life Guard

Summertime pools and beaches brim with opportunities for teens to socialize, exercise and relax, but drowning risk doesn’t evaporate once kids outgrow the kiddie pool. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 19, with teenage boys and toddlers most at risk. To protect kids from drowning, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children learn to swim, including teenagers. Even if your child learned to swim years ago, periodic refresher lessons can help build and maintain swimming ability.

Prioritize water safety by talking to teens about drowning risks, including the risks of drinking and swimming. Make sure teens understand the risks of unsafe jumping and diving, which can cause severe head injuries and paralysis. Teach teens to dive safely. Never dive headfirst into an unknown body of water or anywhere diving isn’t allowed. Insist on life vests when teens use watercrafts or boats, including paddleboards. Finally, when it comes to pool safety, trust, but verify: Ask about adult supervision before your teen attends a pool party, and confirm that parents are present during any swimming activity.

 

Malia Jacobson is a nationally published health journalist and mom.

 

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August 2019

August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: Free

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Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: $35/resident, $46/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
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Cost: Free

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Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
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Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Join park staff for an informal fishing experience for the whole family. Bring your own poles or borrow one of ours through the Tackle Loaner Program. Bait and basic instruction are provided. All...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Take the fast track to nature in this hands-on study of ecology. Ages 8-12. Register online. Choose course #124972.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
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Design a T-shirt. Materials provided. Grades 3-5. Register at the library or call 919-245-2539.

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
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Cost: Free

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The Wine Feed
307 S Roxboro St
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Cost: Free

Where:
GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN
1903 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: Gregg Museum of Art & Design
Telephone: 919-515-3503
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Cost: Free

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Flaherty Park Community Center
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Cost: Free

Where:
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211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
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Contact Name: Melissa
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Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
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Cost: $15/resident, $19/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $3/person

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Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: Free

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Town Hall Campus
316 N. Academy St.
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Cost: Free

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Binkley Baptist Church
1712 Willow Dr
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Sponsor: North Carolina Boys Choir and Girls Choir
Telephone: 919-239-9083
Contact Name: Robert Unger
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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211 N. Main St.
Roxboro, NC  27573
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Sponsor: Roxboro Area Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 336-599-8333
Contact Name: Melissa
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Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Celebrate North Carolina farming culture and history at Duke Homestead. Don't miss the looping contest and Hornworm Race. This event features live music, local arts and crafts vendors, hands-on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Duke Homestead
2828 Duke Homestead Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
University Place
201 S. Estes Dr
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
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Sponsor: UNC-TV

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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace
201 E. Davie St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Learning Express Falls Pointe
9660 Falls of Neuse Rd
#130
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Learning Express Falls Pointe
Telephone: 919-325-6057
Contact Name: Stephanie Gillespie
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
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2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

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100 W. Main Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Sponsor: First Baptist Church of Clayton and Horne Memorial UMC of Clayton
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East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
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Cost: Free

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Cost: Free

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North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC  27607


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