Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim is a must read for young children five and under to help teach them how to stay safe around water. This book that teaches water safety for kids stems from a tragic accident that has led the Leonard family to dedicate their time to drowning prevention among children.
In 1989, the Leonards’ two year old son, Stew Leonard III, drowned while everyone was getting ready for a pool party. There were so many adults around, no one thought that safety would be an issue. So Kim and Stew Leonard Jr decided to start a foundation, “Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation” to help promote water safety awareness.
After discovering that there is very little water safety information geared towards children under the age of five, they wrote a book around a fun character, Stewie the Duck, to help children learn water safety rules in a fun way.
I wholeheartedly agree with the Leonards – there is very little information about water safety that is geared towards children – it is mostly geared towards adults, and there needs to be another level of prevention that comes in the form of educating children about water safety. This is why in each of our AquaMobile Learn to Swim Levels, we include several water safety skills that must be taught. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 . This age group has the highest drowning rates and private home pools are the number 1 place where these drownings occur .
The book has had a lasting impact. The Leonards recount one example of how a little girl went out to the pool and walked back in to grab her parents because she had read the book and told them the book says she’s not allowed without them. That’s powerful.
It’s a short and easy read with colorful pictures so that young children can grasp the main messages. The storyline revolves around a little duck named Stewie. The big ducks won’t let Stewie swim until he knows all the pool rules. So they teach him a song which reinforces these 3 main points:
- Take swimming lessons, so you can learn to swim
- Always wear a life vest
- Always have a grown up watching whenever you are near water
The fun song is meant to be sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, listing the main rules: Don’t Jump in til you learn to swim, cover your chest with a safe life vest, a grown-up must watch you in the pool.
There is also a sing-along CD included with several renditions of the song that kids seem to love.
The end of the book includes several rules for parents as well. My favorite being: Make a Long Term Commitment to Teaching your Child to Swim. So often, it can be easy to forget that skills need to be continually refreshed and built upon. Knowing “the basics”, or being able to get to the edge of a pool safely, is not enough – in the event of an emergency you need to be a strong enough swimmer to fight against the panic instinct. Same goes for the extra challenge of being in choppy, open water – this requires more skill and strength than being in a calm pool.
There is also a Free Stewie the Duck iPhone/iPad app so that you can go over the story on your smart device.
What are some of your favorite water safety tips?
Share with us in the comments section below.