A new partnership between Kids Alive and READY SET DANCE will see vital water safety skills taught through dance – an important move given the impact of lockdowns and the weather on the number of children taking swimming lessons.
Kids Alive founder Laurie Lawrence said research has shown that while swimming lessons remain one of the best preventive measures to reduce drownings, 20 per cent of families drop out of lessons during winter.
According to Laurie, the recent Royal Life Saving Drowning Report showed a 108 per cent increase in drownings in the 0 to 5 age group, “which is a devastating step backwards”, he said.
With one in four Australian children attending dance lessons, it seemed like a perfect partnership to all involved.
“Dance is the most popular activity outside of playgroup, so it was obvious where we needed to start in this crusade for more access to education,” Laurie explained.
Kids Alive operations Manager Emma Lawrence said the initiative also aligned with the Australian Water Safety Strategy (AWSS) 2030, which had identified the under-5s as one of the most vulnerable groups to drowning and recognised the need for further education within this group.
Across the country, 250 dance schools have begun incorporating the Kids Alive Do the Five and other safety songs as part of its program for under 5s, with the rollout to begin in the ACT next month.
Participating dance studios in the ACT include Legs Dance Studio in Hume, Jayz Dance Company in Pialligo, Vieira Dance School of Excellence in Belconnen, Pointe2Pointe in Gungahlin and Acclaim Dance & Cheer Co in Phillip.
Legs Dance Studio owner Michelle Heine said her team is proud to be helping share such a vital safety message through the READY SET DANCE program.
“Especially in Canberra, lots of families will drop out of swimming lessons in winter, so sharing these wonderful water-safety messages with our students all year round is bound to make a difference,” she said.
Michelle says the lessons will now incorporate the Kids Alive song along with corresponding dance moves.
“Kids Alive are also in the process of writing more songs which relate to water safety, so we will have those to add soon as well,” she explained.
In the READY SET DANCE program, because it’s geared towards the youngest children, Michelle says students learn from repetition by copying their teacher or instructor.
“You’ll see kids leaving class and they will be singing one of the songs on the way out or when they are in the car on the way home,” she said.
For Michelle, it’s this very repetition that will make the program so effective.
“If it saves lives, that will be amazing,” she said.
With the ACT still in lockdown, dance classes are all running virtually.
“We prefer to do our lessons online in real-time rather than simply posting videos because it means kids can still have that great interaction,” Michelle explained.
While it can be difficult to get the under-5s engaged, Michelle says it’s all about incorporating little elements from their lives, whether that’s asking about their pets, getting them to play music with wooden spoons or anything else.
“It’s not the real thing, but we are all doing what we can to make it seem as engaging as possible.”
Under the current lockdowns, dance studios are closed in the ACT. To stay up to date with lockdown restrictions, visit COVID19.act.gov.au.