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Record-try swim lesson doubles as reminder to parents that kids should learn water safety

MESA, Ariz. — Swimkids USA was one of just 400 locations around the world Thursday trying to break the Guinness world record for the largest swimming lesson.

For owner Lana Whitehead, the purpose wasn’t so much to get in the record books as it was to help parents teach kids how to handle themselves in the water.

“We get them to swim to the side of the pool, or swim to the steps,” said Whitehead. “Most importantly, they need to learn how to turn to their back so they can breathe and rest.”

Some of the students were as young as as young as 9 months.

Allison James brought her daughters, Rebecca and Lindsay, for a lesson. Lindsay is still too little, but Rebecca has been learning to swim for several months.

“Swimming lessons young is not two or three years old,” said James. “Learning to swim or stay safe in the water starts at 9 or 10 months old.”.

For James, the lessons hit close to the heart. Her 19-month old son Ian died two years ago in a backyard swimming pool. A month before his death, James and her husband had debated whether or not they should start him in swimming lessons.

“We had barriers around the pool,” said James. “I’m a registered nurse who knows CPR really well, and was very vigilant about watching my children, and my son still drowned.”

Swimkids USA is one of the first swimming schools to start teaching babies. Whitehead has started a program called Water Smart Babies, where doctors give parents a “prescription” to give their kids a swimming lesson in order to get parents to start thinking about it earlier.