June 26, 2024 - 6 min read
June 26, 2024

4 Things I Wish Other Parents Knew About ISR Water Safety

isr swim water safety

When we started swimming lessons

We had done swimming lessons here and there from the time our son was 4 months old. We committed fully to ISR swim lessons when our son was 2 years old and our daughter was 1 year old. Believe me when I say swim lessons started off tough. There was lots of crying, screaming echoing throughout and the pit in my stomach as to whether or not I was doing the right thing or simply torturing my children. 

isr swim water safety

Drowning is often called “the silent killer”

Once we decided to get a pool, I read too many stories – mothers who lost their children to drowning and would spend the rest of their lives committed to educating their communities on water safety. Being a family that spends a lot of time around water, pools, ponds, boats, beaches and bays, I couldn’t handle the thought of the life I’d have to live if this became me. I also learned that drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4.

The water scare that changed my life

I had one scare and that was enough to change my life. I was cleaning up toys outside of our pool, our son was stripped down to his nudey self since we were all done swimming for the afternoon, and as my back was to the pool while placing toys in the storage container, I heard a splash. I turn around, fully clothed, and leap across the pool. An image that’s been burned into my mind – he was on his back, horizontal, with about 6 inches of water above his entire body. His eyes were open, teeth were clenched and he was scared. I raised him up in seconds, he held his breath and I thanked my lucky stars that he was okay. It was a wake up call. 

What made me finally sign up for ISR Infant Self Rescue® Classes

A friend of mine’s 12 year old son was there that day when my son fell in reaching for a toy. He saw the whole thing. I spoke to his mom about it later and sure enough she shared with me her experience with Infant Swimming Resource (ISR), and their Self-Rescue® program. I learn some of the best things from other moms. She swore by it. I looked into it previously, but never pulled the trigger. So the next day I followed up on it and we signed our kids up. Thankfully I had the time, the schedule and the financial ability to be able to commit, so I did. It’s really no joke – 6 weeks, 10 minutes a day, every day. It wasn’t easy, but we got through it. And then we did it again.

I learned so much from the experience that I figured I’d pull together a round up of the key takeways and pass them on to other parents. I tried my best to share things I learned from their ISR swim instructor that felt practical for parents and different than most of the other advice I’ve read around water safety.

Here are the 4 things I wish other parents knew about ISR water safety: 

isr swim water safety

1. Practice makes permanent

My personal take on why I believe ISR is so successful is because of the consistency. By the end of the 6 weeks of daily commitment our children were able to “self-rescue”. Like anything else, they need reinforcement and practice. We’ve since done a whole series of refresher courses. “Practice makes permanent” – that’s a phrase I remember my lacrosse coach taught me as a kid. It wasn’t that it’d be perfect, but whatever you work on over and over again would eventually lead you into making it a permanent skill or habit. Learning to swim is no exception. The more they practice, the better they will be. When we’re in the water with the kids, we’re mostly practicing, rarely relaxing. There is minimal holding or sitting around in the pool. It can still be fun but we are primarily focused on learning.

isr swim water safety

2. Encourage the sequence of “swim – float – swim”

This technique was new to me. ISR pushes this skill to get kids to learn when you need a breath, you roll to your back, relax and float. You can sustain this position for quite some time and use very little energy. If you are face down in the swimming position and pop your head up, that is the easiest way to take in water, have your feet fall and inadvertently end up in the drowning position. So, “Let me see your swim – float – swim,” every time we hop in the water is what I’d say. I encourage them to remind me how they can be safe in the water and show me their skills and if they don’t show me their “swim – float – swim” a few times then they can’t swim, and I mean it. 

isr swim water safety

3. If they forget their “swim – float – swim”, break it down

We practice swimming to me or to a ledge, then we practice our float, then once both are mastered we gradually bring the individual skills back together for the full sequence. This is how they are able to travel in water from one side to the other when they can’t do it with one full breath.

isr swim water safety

4. How to stretch the underwater swim

I pay attention to how long they stretch their underwater swim and encourage them to flip to their back if they are going too far. I give them my hands, together (not separated, so they have one point to swim to), as a target to reinforce the right amount of time under water. 

isr swim water safety

Getting kids to learn skills that will keep them safe

There are no second chances when it comes to water safety. And learning any new skill can be hard, especially if you don’t want to learn it at first. I feel that it’s my job as their mom to push my kids outside of their comfort zone to learn new skills that will better them and most importantly, keep them safe. Teaching them something they don’t want to learn is especially hard. At the moment it feels like a never ending journey, sort of like potty training did at one point. Will the laundry or accidents ever stop?! But sure enough, the laundry and accidents do slow down and sure enough the children learn. 

Through consistency and commitment they eventually get the hang of it and when you see that switch go off in their heads there is nothing like it. It’s massively rewarding and overwhelmingly worth it.

isr swim water safety

If you’re interested in learning more about teaching your children self rescue swim techniques, you can find more information at infantswim.com.

It’s typically best for kids to learn these skills in the off-season, fall or late winter, so they are ready come summer time. Instructors’ schedules fill up quickly.


Water Safety Resources:

Tragic Stories, Never to be Forgotten:


Written by

Image of Gabrielle Iorio Sylk

Gabrielle Iorio Sylk


Gabrielle Iorio Sylk is the founder of Bumpdate. She is a mother, wife, and caring friend. Gabrielle uses her tech background and innovative skills to foster Bumpdate’s growth and bring people together during the most beautiful and challenging times in their lives. She lives on a farm in New Jersey with her husband, son, daughter, dog and the many woodland creatures who live in their backyard.


1 Comment

  1. Sara Neal

    Love those kiddos and your precious family! So thankful for you and appreciate you spreading the word about what we do at ISR!

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