FREE Summer Swimming Lessons for Halifax Kids

This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.

I was that parent who had her child in swimming lessons at three months old. Obviously I knew she wasn’t actually going to learn how to swim as a newborn but I felt very strongly about my child being comfortable in the water and learning to swim as early as possible. It’s an essential life skill, I said, It should be a high priority for every parent, I preached.

My daughter will be five in a few months and we recently went to a birthday party at a pool where she spent the whole time sitting on the sidelines because she’s afraid of the water. After an enthusiastic start, we quickly fizzled out on the lessons and now we have two kids who won’t go in the water.

The pool party was my wake-up call. This summer I will be signing my daughter up for the free swimming lessons the HRM offers at their outdoor beaches and pools. Rhonda Dea is the Coordinator of Aquatic and Leisure Services with the Halifax Regional Municipality and she agrees that every child should take swimming lessons, but says parents need to know that the goal at a young age isn’t to nail that butterfly stroke.

“We want a child to be able to swim themselves to safety, first and foremost. They can achieve that with the basic skills,” she says. ”Water safety is something all children should be taught.”

Besides preventing drowning, swimming lessons also teach children respect for their classmates and instructors, how to work as a group, listen well and how to safely respond to a variety of water situations.

There are also some things parents can do at home to help their child become more comfortable in the water such as having them face the stream of water in the shower to get used to water on their face, which is something Dea says many children are afraid of.

A parent’s attitude while playing in the water with their children can also impact a child’s anxiety around swimming.

“If a parent has their child at a beach or a lake, or even a public pool, and their child slips under for a second it is important that the parent doesn’t react in a panicked way,” she explains. “The child reacts to the parent’s panic. It is great to see a parent pick the child up quickly, make sure they are okay and continue on.”

Dea recommends children start swimming lessons by three years old. By that age most children are independent and able to follow directions. Also, they are in non-parented classes by then which Dea says can be an advantage as many children often listen better when their parents are not with them.

I’m looking forward to watching my daughter learn how to have fun safely in the water this summer from the comfort of my beach towel and, let’s be honest, the fact that I get to spend her swimming lessons making sand castles with my toddler isn’t a bad deal for me either.

Is Your Toddler Sneaking Drugs?

I remember stealing drugs once when I was a little kid. I pulled a chair over to the kitchen stove and climbed up on it. Then I opened the cabinet above the stove, took out a Baby Aspirin and ate it. I did it because I liked the taste of Baby Aspirin. I don't know how old I was, but clearly I was small enough to need a chair to climb up and old enough to know it was wrong.

It must be hereditary because now my kids are medicine junkies. They absolutely LOVE the taste of liquid meds and if they see their sibling getting some, the other one begs for it. My daughter has even faked pain and injury to try to get a dose if her brother needs some. I can't really blame them, I've tasted it and it takes like candy! Those drugs are very high up and far back out of their reach.

The rest of our adult drugs are in our main floor bathroom closet on the second highest shelf, which also holds the first-aid kit and bandages. The shelf below it, still much higher than either of our kids can reach, holds a tied up grocery bag of expired medications that I collected after I finished four years of being back-to-back pregnant and nursing (and not being able to take meds). It was put there with the intention of being dropped off at a pharmacy. It's been there a year and a half.

Recently my daughter came strolling out of the bathroom putting a Frozen band-aid on a (non-existent) cut. I did a doubletake and asked her where she got it from. She told me she pulled the bathroom stool (in there to help the kids reach the sink) over to the closet and climbed up to the top shelf and got it herself. I was sitting in the next room while this happened and didn't hear a thing.

I immediately went and moved everything up to the top level and put the bag of expired meds waaay out of reach but it was a a good lesson to learn. I'm just grateful she didn't look in that grocery bag because that kids loves her candy and those brightly coloured pills in pop-out packs may have been just too tempting.

This weekend is National Prescription Drug Drop-Off Day which is led by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and I'll be taking that bag into the nearest pharmacy. There are several local drop off-centres in the city and province-wide. A list of the locations, and more information about how to prepare the meds, can be found on the RCMP site here.

This is your cautionary tale and friendly reminder. Kids are resourceful, clever and agile. Take a few moments to clean out your cabinets, remove the expired medication and dispose of it properly this weekend (and don't flush it down the toilet, the environment doesn't need that). While you're at it, move the medications up higher or to a locked cabinet, and have a conversation with your kid about asking a grown-up before eating ANYTHING they find in the house.

The Stranger Danger Conversation

The Stranger Danger Conversation

In January 2016 there were two reported incidents of children in the HRM being approached by strangers on their way to school. These alarming events reminded many parents that teaching children about “stranger danger” is something that needs to happen on an ongoing basis, however many parents aren't sure how to effectively have that conversation.