SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – In the wake of an increase in child drowning deaths in Louisiana, local health experts and families spoke with KTAL/KMSS about how to keep small children safe in the water.

A five-year-old girl is learning how to swim safely with her dad at the BHP Billiton YMCA in Shreveport. McKynzie Rivers has been swimming with her dad, Levy Rivers, for the last eight months, and she loves it.

“I like kicking my legs,” McKynzie says, beaming with excitement. Her father says he wants McKynzie to be “comfortable inside of her own skin as she’s navigating the waters of life.”

“At an early age, she gets to learn, get acclimated to the water, learns how to trust her in the water, learns how to maneuver a body,” Rivers says.

While swimming can be fun, small children, even those who are strong swimmers, can be in danger. Medical Director for Louisiana Department of Health Region 7, Dr. Martha Whyte, says parents should stay nearby regardless.

“Please don’t leave your children unattended, even if they know how to swim. Things can happen, accidents can happen.”

Whyte says in 2019, 15 children in Louisiana died due to drowning. That number increased to 24 in 2020.

“If you think about it, it’s like a kindergarten class full of kids that drowned.”

Raymond Lee, the Executive Director at BPH Billiton, says that’s why it’s essential parents learn how to swim. He says when parents don’t know how to swim, they don’t make it a priority to teach their children how to swim. However, he says it’s better to start early.

“The sooner you get your child acclimated, the sooner you teach your child how to be safe around water, the better.”

The YMCA offers swimming lessons for children as young as six months old.