No matter how much we try to protect our kids, we never quite know when trouble could be brewing. Around Long Island, there are programs and classes for kids and families, from swimming lessons to babysitting training, that will help ensure young ones’ safety and well-being.
Here’s a look at eight to explore:
Stay safe in the water
“We efficiently teach one-on-one lessons, where we allow the child to work individually with their instructor, so that we can build a relationship and develop their ability to learn at their pace,” says Bobby Hazen, district manager and director of water safety programming for Saf-T-Swim Swim School.
Weekly half-hour lessons, which can start as young as two months old, typically take between three and six months to show significant progress.
“The younger they start, the quicker they can learn,” says Hazen, adding that kids are never 100% safe in the water, but are a lot safer once they know how to swim. “You never keep your eyes off a child in and around any water.”
INFORMATION: Lessons start at $47.50 at Saf-T-Swim School, which has 12 locations throughout Nassau and Suffolk.
Build confidence with animal therapy
Teams of certified therapy dogs and their handlers will come to schools and private homes to help kids with behavioral issues and work with others to build self-confidence and overcome fears, notes Terry Gallogly, founder of Therapy Dogs of Long Island.
In her first visit to a Ft. Salonga kindergarten class for kids with disabilities, the teacher asked the kids, most of whom are on the autism spectrum, to line up to meet the dog and get him to do tricks. At the end of the class, Gallogly asked the teacher how it went.
“She said, ‘Oh my God. It has prompted them to use language. These kids don’t speak,’” Gallogly recalled. “We’ve been going there every week since. That’s how powerful it is.”
INFORMATION: $30 per visit for Therapy Dogs of Long Island, 631-346-0976; therapydogsofli.org.
Learn traffic safety at Safety Town
Geared to third graders, Safety Town in Eisenhower Park is a scaled-down neighborhood of houses, paved roads, traffic lights and crossings where children walk, ride bicycles or drive miniature cars to learn about traffic safety in a fun way.
“They service about 10,000 students a year,” says Nassau County Police Lieutenant John Liston, adding that there are two 90-minute sessions a day.
INFORMATION: Open to classes, camps, scouting troops and other groups; free. Safety Town, Eisenhower Park, Merrick and Stewart Avenues, East Meadow; call 516-573-3190 to apply.
Modeled after Eisenhower Park’s Safety Town, the Town of Brookhaven’s Safety Town is also geared toward third graders and kids’ groups. Free for Brookhaven residents, only open to groups except for special events; free. Brookhaven’s Safety Town is at Holtsville Ecological Site, 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville, call to sign up: 631-363-3770
Car seat installation at the police department
Babies don’t come with manuals and while car seats might, there’s a good chance new parents might not be installing them properly.
Parents can make free appointments to have the seats installed or checked at their local precincts or go to one of the dozens of events at local firehouses or organizations throughout the year, says Suffolk County Police Department Sergeant Bonnie Raber. “Our goal is that children leave safer than when they come to us,” says Raber.
Nassau County Police Department offers monthly demonstrations and installations at various locations throughout Nassau. From 9 am to 1 pm on April 20, they will be at Uniondale Public Library.
INFORMATION: Free, call Suffolk County Police Department Community Relations Bureau, 631-852-6109 or contact your local precinct. In Nassau, call Nassau County Police Department Community Affairs, 516-573-7360.
Fire safety for the family
Every October, in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week (this year, Oct. 9 through 15), fire departments around Long Island participate in open houses to familiarize families with fire safety concepts, says Sean Schwier, assistant chief of Huntington Fire Department.
Through demonstrations of small fires and how to use a fire extinguisher, local firefighters teach fire safety and prevention. Huntington Fire Department has a “smokehouse” where children learn how to exit a burning building safely.
“It’s not real smoke, of course,” says Schwier, adding, “each fire department does things a little differently. Some let you try on fire gear and check out their ambulance and EMS equipment.”
INFORMATION: Free; check local fire departments for dates and times.
Babysitter training through the Red Cross
Babysitting Basics, Red Cross’s class geared toward 11 to 14-year-olds, explores the business of babysitting. Covering all aspects of baby care, from diapering to feeding, burping, basic CPR, to first aid for bee stings, allergic reactions, asthma and burns, the program also includes video walk-throughs of houses showing potential dangers in a home and how to childproof it. They go over an array of different things to look for both throughout the house and outdoors, says Zack Terzano, associate vice president at Aquatic Solutions and a Red Cross instructor.
INFORMATION: Classes are $99 for a 7-hour program, for 11- to 14-year-olds at Freeport Recreation Center, 130 E. Merrick Road, Freeport, or at private residences; sign up at RedCross.org.
Learn to ride a bicycle
Riding a bicycle is a wonderful and healthy activity for all ages, but can seem daunting to anyone getting on the bike for the first time. Most people have trouble riding because they’re afraid of falling, says Gary Sirota, owner Brands Cycle & Fitness of Wantagh. “We take away the fear of falling,” Sirota says. At Brands’ classes, before they even learn to pedal, children are positioned on bicycles with their feet flat on the ground, then lift off their feet while gliding down a slight incline, giving them a sense of balancing while on the bike.
INFORMATION: Free and no purchase required, 30-minute, one-on-one instruction at Brands Cycle & Fitness, 1966 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh; call for appointment, 516-781-6100; brandscycle.com.
CPR and choking training from Red Cross
Certified Red Cross adult, child and pediatric first aid, CPR and choking instruction is open to adults and older children, notes Terzano of Aquatic Solutions, a Red Cross CPR training certification provider.. “We’ve had children about 10 years old attend these classes and they’re able to achieve the skills,” says Terzano. The course includes an interactive online component followed by in-person instruction, the program can be tailored to which certification a participant is seeking. Classes also cover helping unconscious shocking adults, children and infants.
INFORMATION: $68 to $99, for 4-hour, 15-minute to 5.5-hour instruction. Available at Aquatic Solutions locations, American Red Cross in Mineola and other sites; RedCross.org.