Madeline Klinger camps by the river all summer long.

This year, her 10-month-old daughter, Lydia, will be with her.

Which is why Klinger enrolled her baby girl in swim lessons.

“I think it’s a great skill to have just in case,” she said. “It gives you peace of mind as a parent that if anything would happen, she has the skills to bring herself up to a float until someone could get there for her.”

That’s exactly the goal of infant survival swimming. It teaches babies to turn to their backs and float until help arrives.

Danielle and Joe Schiavoni offer the lessons in suburban Harrisburg through a program called Floats to Strokes Infant Aquatics.

“That extra minute of time they’re able to float on their backs, that is everything,” Danielle Schianvoni said.

She grew up a championship swimmer, but her focus shifted with the birth of her first child.

“It kind of evolved into survival swimming when I became a mom and was a pool owner,” she said. “And I thought, I don’t need my kid to get to the Olympics and do wonderful butterfly strokes, I just need to know my two-year-old can survive.”

They offer 10 minute lessons four times a week for four weeks, starting at just six-months-old.

“We try to get them to create muscle memory for the skills that we’re teaching them,” Danielle Schiavoni said. “And so we get them swimming within weeks.”

Schiavoni admits the method can be hard to watch at first. Many babies will start out crying. But seeing a child rescue themselves, makes it worth it every single time, she said.

Once a child can float, they start to simulate real situations, having them practice with shoes, clothing and a regular diaper.

“It’s amazing to watch when they have these heavy shoes on and this long shirt on, they do what they’re trained to do,” Schiavoni said.

For 18-months and older, the lessons extend to six weeks and the children are taught not only to float, but to kick themselves to the side.

It came naturally to 22-month-old Becca, giving her mom pride and peace of mind.

“It was really neat to see that she didn’t panic,” said Becca’s mom, Colleen Sanders. “I was amazed she could do it, actually.”

The program also worked for Lydia. Even at 10-months, she’s able to show her mom and her instructors that she gets it.

“It’s definitely worth watching her cry for a couple of minutes to have her be able to save her own life if she needs to,” Klinger said.

If you’d like more information about Floats to Strokes, you can click here.

An interesting side note; because the pandemic closed pools and shut down swim lessons, there is an even greater demand for swim lessons this year.