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April 11, 2018
The first time, it’s uncomfortable to watch at best.
A child, sometimes less than 1 year old, is submerged into water.
In seconds though, the child’s body turns, and in a few seconds more, the child floats, face up on the surface of the water.
This is the goal of Float On, a business started in Sioux Falls earlier this year that teaches children as young as 6 months how to rescue themselves in the water.
“The end goal is you want kids to be water-safe and know how to roll onto their back if they fall into water,” founder Andrea Oswald said. “It’s drowning prevention and self-rescue.”
Oswald learned about the concept as a nanny in Colorado. She took two boys to lessons, “and I thought it was incredible,” she said. When she became a nanny to another family, their child went to similar lessons. It led Oswald to the woman who created the program more than 40 years ago.
“It’s really amazing, and I’m glad to finally bring it to Sioux Falls,” she said. “It’s building pretty quickly on word of mouth.”
When she finished being a nanny, Oswald knew she wanted to have her own business. She was encouraged to teach infant aquatics and became certified in it last year. She moved to Sioux Falls, where she spent eight years, including time as a student at Augustana University studying psychology and exercise science.
Float On mostly works with kids 6 months through 6 years old.
“I don’t teach fundamental strokes or anything like that. I teach them to get from face down to float on their back for an indefinite amount of time.”
All lessons are private and last only 10 to 20 minutes, but students attend daily Monday through Thursday for three to six weeks.
“They come out after a few weeks and are water-safe,” Oswald said. “Once they’re walking, I teach them how to do it all, and we work on thinking for themselves. They jump in, and I back away completely, so they can find their way to the side or steps. And the confidence and independence that comes from beginning to end is incredible.”
Classes are held at Dow Rummel Village, which Oswald said has been a good fit.
“They’ve been so great, and the pool space is perfect,” she said, adding that the Dow Rummel residents “love it. And I didn’t even plan on it, but a lot of them have grandkids and tell their kids about the program.”
As part of the program, she also will work with kids to float or swim to safety while wearing summer, fall or even winter clothes.
“I tell parents it can be really hard to watch. The way we train is all positive reinforcement. It’s like learning a bike. But it’s scary,” she said.
“I tell them, ‘I’m here. I will not let anything happen to you.’ This program works for every kid. It might not work for every parent. It breaks your heart (to watch), but they need it. We’re around water all the time. It’s essential they get there.”
Oswald is starting new sessions. To learn more, contact her through Float On’s Facebook page.
This new business teaches kids as young as 6 months to save themselves in the water.