From afar it must have looked like a dozen little yellow ants running around on Oneroa beach recently. Coming closer you would see each creature only had two legs and was in fact a preschooler in a rash vest with a bright yellow hat on.
After having an ‘amazing response’ from the island community, Surf Life Saving Northern Region, SLSNR, held a three-day children’s water safety programme on 24 to 26 January. Children down to two years of age and up to 11 spent days on the beach learning how to be safe in the surf.
“We give them theoretical beach education and practical water confidence. It’s things such as learning skills to keep you safe in the ocean, which means how to come in and out of the water, how to run over the water rather than fall and how to float,” said lifeguard Kimberley Scott.
When the youngest students, aged two to four, did their warm up, they learned about being “sun smart”. The rules were five and easy. Slip on some clothing, slop on sun block, slap on a hat, wrap on sunglasses and slide into shade. To illustrate, the children were putting on imaginary sunglasses and stood under their umbrellas made of two hands.
“We try to teach the kids, that the biggest killer on the beach are not sharks, but in fact the sun,” she said.
It is essentially about preventing accidents from happening rather than repenting when they had happened.
The children, she said, are smart enough to learn even complex issues such as rips, how to spot them and what to do if they are caught in one. “When they’ve learned all this, they hopefully go home to their families and pass on the knowledge.
“By teaching them these things, the hope is that the next generation will have fewer water accidents,” said Kimberley.
•  Emma Haas

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