Water is an essential part of New Zealand’s identity and many Kiwi kids grow up spending their holidays at the beach, fishing off the rocks, swimming in a pool or learning how to drive a boat.

According to Safekids Aotearoa, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under.

YMCA Auckland believes that water safety should be an important aspect of all children’s education, and that it can never start too early. At the end of September, as part of its school holiday programme, YMCA North Shore took a group of around 40 children to YMCA Glen Innes Aquatic and Fitness Centre to take part in a special water safety workshop.

The children, aged 8-10, took a bus to the Glen Innes centre, where they were split up into groups lead by qualified instructors, who would take the children through the workshop stations.

Activity included ‘exploratory time’, which is monitored free play swimming in the pool, and the kids were given half of the entire pool to practice their swimming and play. The kids also learnt about life jackets and boat safety, including tips on how to get out of the boat if it tips over and how to stay underneath it if it is upside down. They were also taken through non-contact water rescues, learning how to rescue someone with an object from outside the pool, without putting themselves in danger by entering the water.

Assistant swim school coordinater, Pam Woller, assisted the activity on the day and says the workshop was a great overview of elements from the different water safety programmes the centre teaches.

“It’s all about getting kids to feel more confident in and around the water; giving them the education to simply be aware of the dangers of swimming as well as some skills on safe water play.

It’s incredibly rewarding seeing students accomplish their goals and coming to love the water the more they practice,” says Pam.

Kristina Ineson, YMCA North Shore Recreation Manager says, “The day was a fantastic way to get the kids out and about, having fun, and into the water, while being incredibly beneficial for their learning. It’s a nice extra for parents who drop their kids off for the school holiday programme – knowing they are truly taking something of benefit from the sessions and learning practical life lessons.”

Sadly, DrownBase, the national database that tracks all mortality and morbidity drownings within New Zealand, is already reporting more deaths from drowning this year than last. With summer fast approaching and drowning rates increasing in New Zealand, it’s a hugely important time for children and families to learn about safety in the water. And what a fantastic way to get it done; through YMCA Auckland school holiday programmes – fun and hands-on education at no extra cost to parents.

Be sure to get in touch with your local YMCA Auckland centre to see what they are doing to help your children and family be more confident in the water this summer.

Children under the age of 16 can also swim for free at any YMCA Auckland pool facility, thanks to Auckland Council.