Learning to FLOAT on your BACK could SAVE your Child’s LIFE

Learning to independently back float from a young age is key to survival, swimming and water safety.

Back Floating is a foundational skill which requires minimal energy and skill. It enables a child to remain buoyant at the water’s surface, which allows them to maintain an effective body position for breathing and breathing means life. It can also be applied in all aquatic environments.

This Summer, Randwick City and Waverley council in partnership with the University of NSW (UNSW) Beach Safety Research Group have launched ‘Float to Survive’ campaign to help reduce national drownings.

Float to Survive promotes floating as the best chance of survival for swimmers who get into trouble in the water.

“Our Float to Survive message is that if you can master the skill of floating, even if you are not a good swimmer, you are more likely to survive and be rescued,” Mayor Parker said.

Bruce Hopkins, coordinator, Waverley Council Lifeguard Service, said learning how to float is easier than learning how to swim?and “could be the difference between life and death”.

Learning to back float might not be the preferred position in the water for a child. However, long term, it is a skill which could save their life. Maintaining a horizontal position in water allows a person to float, breathe, sustain energy or propel through the water should they be capable and able to reach safety. Floating also helps the child to conserve energy, which reduces the chances of drowning from physical fatigue.

2022 Royal Life Saving Reported 75% of toddler fatal drownings occur when children unintentionally fall into the water. They panic and are unable to gain a breath, due to reverting to a vertical position or remaining face down. Gaining a breath in an aquatic emergency such as a fall into water is crucial in sustaining life and preventing future drownings.

Former Royal Life Saving CEO, Jennifer Schembri-Portelli said:

“Drowning does not occur due to a lack of swimming skills, but results from a lack of ability to gain and maintain an effective body position for breathing,”

She urged parents to “consider the very short amount of time it takes for drowning to occur and how panicked and traumatised your child would be if they could not breathe”.

Randwick Council Beach Lifeguard Supervisor Paul Moffat said sometimes people who get into trouble in the water can swim, but they panic and try to swim against the current which tires them out.

“If you can relax and float, you’ll conserve energy and have a better chance of drifting out of a rip or being rescued,” Mr Moffat said.

The essence of learning to swim and water safety hinges on students gaining knowledge and understanding of aquatic environments (beyond the confines of a swimming pool) and how their body may react in a variety of water conditions.  The final element in education is competency in physical skill to enhance safety when in, on or near water.

Being safe in the water demands

  • Knowledge of general and local conditions
  • Understanding the impact water has on body balance, movement and control
  • A healthy respect for aquatic environments
  • An ability to make correct judgements in risk situations.

We know that many Australian children enter into an aquatic experience without any understanding of their personal capabilities or limitations.

At Kids Aquatic Survival School (KASS), we feel it is vitally important we provide infants and young children with the opportunity to undertake progressive aquatic survival skill development that considers the experiences and activities that they may be exposed to in the future and provide them with a core set of skills that can be utilised in times of need.

That is why at Kids Aquatic Survival School (KASS), we focus on survival skills as the best foundation for learn to swim. Our core focus is to ensure children learn how to gain and maintain a position of safe breathing. We teach children to self-rescue from a disorientation in water which involves rolling from their front to their back, so they are not face down and are able to breathe and remain in that floating breathing posture until help arrives. If the child is stronger, capable and safety is within reach, we teach them to roll back to their front and swim a few basic front paddle strokes and always back to their back to breathe and repeat this sequence of swimming and floating until they reach safety. Children also have the opportunity to practice reaching and holding techniques, so they will be able to successfully hold on to the side of the pool or safety which might be a log in a river or pier at the beach or lake.

At KASS, we advocate that Back Floating is a life-saving skill. It is a simple, low-energy way of being able to breathe. It also transitions into other swimming techniques. Being able to float also promotes proper breathing techniques, which works to keep kids calm in the water and reduces fatigue.

Learning to back float might not be the preferred position in the water for a child. However, long term, it is a skill which could save their life. Maintaining a horizontal position in water allows a person to breathe, sustain energy or propel through the water should they be able to reach safety.

Mastering how to float on your back is an important foundation skill for children when they are learning to swim. Staying horizontal on the water and rolling on your side from back to front and back again and introducing a kick is the ideal rotational breathing function used in freestyle.

Back floating is also the foundation for survival backstroke which is not only a survival swimming technique for the purpose of maintaining breath control and preserving energy, survival backstroke is the only stroke which maintains body heat, as the legs are kept together as long as possible in order to minimise heat loss from the body.

At Kids Aquatic Survival School, children learn the importance of maintaining a body position parallel to the water and learn the proper kicking technique to propel their body forward through the water. This is usually introduced once the child is of walking age, as the same motor skills used for running and walking are used in swimming and kicking.

Randwick and Waverley Council advocate Floating as a Life Saving Skill

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