'Children still drown in winter': Laurie Lawrence urges vigilance post COVID-19

Photo: Laurie Lawrence
Photo: Laurie Lawrence  

While water safety expert Laurie Lawrence would normally be travelling the country with his program Kids Alive, this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, he and his team have been unable to spread their messages - and Lawrence is concerned.

"With everything that has been going on it's easy for parents to forget about water safety, especially as they haven't been able to go to swimming lessons and get that consistent reminder," Lawrence tells Essential Baby. 

"The reality is kids are curious about pools and other aquatic locations no matter the season, which is why pool surrounds need to be kept kid-safe, parents need to keep a constant watch on kids near water and those important safety messages need to be reinforced especially with the most vulnerable under 5's,"

In Australia, drowning remains the leading cause of death in children under five. "A recent report by Royal Life Saving Australia* showed that between 2008 and 2018, 26 children aged 0 to 4 years drowned in lakes, dams and lagoons alone," Lawrence says. "That why it's so important to get our message across to families in every location."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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With COVID-19 closing swim schools and borders, Lawrence and his team, including his daughter Emma, "the instigator" decided to put their water safety lessons online as part of a new live Facebook series "Couch Concert."

"We thought, [the coronavirus] is not going away. Let's get it online so we can share the Kids Alive message around Australia," Lawrence explains of the daily 2pm concerts, which run throughout June.  "We've got songs, dances, puppet shows, craft shows - a bit of everything."

And while he notes that the shows are directed at preschoolers "indirectly, it's for the parents." 

"They sit down and you're educating the kids with singing and dancing but the parents are subliminally getting that message and start talking to their kids about the issues too," he says, laughing that the lyrics certainly get stuck in your head.

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Although he's been a passionate water safety advocate since the 80s, it's a cause even closer to his heart now. A proud grandfather of four, Lawrence's two youngest grand kids are eleven-month-old twins. "They're coming into that danger period because they're becoming mobile," he says. "The biggest danger time is between that one and two age group when they're mobile and inquisitive."

And while we're heading into the winter months, Lawrence says parents need to be vigilant all year round.

 "Summer is the drowning season however, kids still drown in winter," he notes. "Parents should be alert"  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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As well as bopping along to their couch series, Lawrence reiterates the importance of parents teaching kids how to swim, noting that he's always been a firm believer that "a baby's first bath is their first swimming lesson".

And while formal swimming lessons might not be up and running just yet, Lawrence has advice for parents for when they do get the green light to get back into the pool.

"I want to see parents understand that when you start teaching your kids again, start slow," he says. "Don't expect they're going to be as good as they were. Gradually build the skills. If you do that, they'll go from strength to strength."

Supervision is also key.

"Water is everywhere so we need to make sure kids and adults are aware of the dangers and best preventative measures," Lawrence says. "The 'Couch Concerts' will help people far and wide learn about water safety and location is not a restriction now to getting to experience the Kids Alive message."

And he's bringing the moves. 

"Look out Emma Wiggle," Lawrence laughs. "I'm the old Fred Astaire type."

More information about the online events is available at www.kidsalive.com.au