KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Warmer weather means more people are diving into the deep end. With pools now open and lake season in full swing, it's important to make sure kids are safe around water.
Drowning is a leading cause of death for children across the country, according to the American Red Cross. Swim experts say drowning is preventable, and it all starts with education, awareness and being prepared.
Swim instructor Alanna Bernstein knows swim lessons save lives. That's why she started Alanna's Aquatics around two summers ago.
"The demand has been pretty high since I started this," Bernstein said. "Most people think to enroll in swim lessons during the summer when the pools are open, and you really need to start enrolling when it's the offseason."
This time of year, the bottom of the pool is top-of-mind. Almost-4-year-old Rylie Anderson is just one of Bernstein's 50 students.
"She has come such a long way in such a short amount of time," Bernstein said.
With a background in teaching and psychology, this swim instructor's approach is a calm and unique one.
"My philosophy is that I work at the comfort of the child versus being goal-oriented, although goals are met along the way during our lessons," Bernstein said. "You're gonna see a lot of a little bit of everything"
While there are plenty of programs and resources available to get kids comfortable in the water, it's the strategy shared at home that really matters. Bernstein says being proactive as a parent is crucial. She has five tips for families pushing for safety at the pool.
"The first one is to always stay hydrated, especially in the summer months," Bernstein said. "Too much swimming, too much sun, you can get super exhausted."
Second — always have someone watching the water.
"Always have a water-watcher whose sole responsibility is to watch the water and the children that are swimming in the water," Bernstein said. "If you're with a group of adults, kind of try to alternate every now and then so they're not distracted. Put away your phones, put away tablets, stop socializing and watch the children that are in the water."
Third — opt for colorful swim clothes.
"Dress them in really bright bathing suits," Bernstein said. "If you have a bathing suit that is blue or aqua color, they mesh well with the water and it's really hard to see in the event of an emergency versus a one that's really bright."
Fourth — if you have a pool of your own, keep it safe.
"Always make sure that the locks are secured, the gates are closed, all pool toys are left away from the pool," Bernstein said. "If a toy is left behind in the water, a child is very enticed to go grab that toy without knowing the circumstances."
Fifth — use appropriate flotation devices that are approved by the Coast Guard, not puddle jumpers.
"Those puddle jumpers especially will train that body to stay vertical in the water versus horizontal in the water," Bernstein said.
Jumping into the summer, families can never be too prepared.
Bernstein starts her swim lessons for children 10 months old. Other lessons start as early as 3 months.
It's important to find the lessons and training style that works best for your family.