Who doesn’t love splashing into a pool on a hot summer day? Water play can be great fun, but it also carries a higher risk than some other activities. Not to worry though, with a little bit of prep work and some basic safety knowledge, your family can safely dive into water fun this season.
Safety starts with you
You can’t rely on someone else to be water safe for you. Lifeguards are highly trained resources, but they can’t watch each kid as closely as a parent can, especially in a crowded pool. Lifeguards’ responsibilities are to facilitate a safe environment, respond to emergencies, and enforce the pool rules. Parents and caregivers have to remain alert and responsible for their own children.
Remember these tips (or LAPS) to keep your family safe in the water:
Learn Basic Safety Rules
Ideally, kids should learn the basic safety rules before they even step poolside. Even if it’s a quick discussion in the car on the way there:
- NEVER get in the pool without an adult present. Make sure the adult knows you are getting in the water
- Listen and obey the lifeguards; their job is to keep you safe, but you have to follow their instructions
- If you get in trouble- float on your back or bob to safety
Arms length at all times
Make sure you can see your child at all times, and for the littlest kids and timid swimmers caregivers need to be within quick rescue distance at all times. For an adventurous toddler or preschooler, consider a life jacket or set of “water wings” to help them keep their head above water. Remember that a flotation device doesn’t replace a parent’s attention, but it can help you keep multiple kids safe at the same time.
Put away distractions
We hear a lot about being “fully present,” but this is especially true around water and little children. Phones, tablets, other reading materials should stay put away, even poolside conversations need to be secondary. Your focus needs to be on keeping your child safe and being in the water with them is the best way to make this happen.
At what point can a parent relax poolside? You will recognize when that day comes. Once a child is a strong swimmer, is fully comfortable in the water, and can easily stand up in the pool- then you can relax a little, but please stay nearby and ready to jump in at any minute if your child needs help.
If you are hosting or attending a pool party with young children- always make sure that one adult is appointed as a “designated watcher.” Adults can switch off or take turns being on alert. You can also hire lifeguards to work private events. Whatever the case, make sure someone has their eyes on the pool at all times.
Enrolling kids in formal swim lessons at an early age gives children a healthy introduction to the water and a healthy respect for it. Swim lessons can help children mitigate their fears of the water; fear and panic are the biggest dangers in an emergency situation. Children who have been taught how to float and safely reach the edge can react instinctively instead of in fear should they ever find themselves in over their head.
According to a study by Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2009), participating in formal swim lessons can reduce drowning rates by 88% for kids ages 1-4. In addition, for any age kid, swimming lessons promote confidence in and out of the water, aids in physical development, encourages physical development, and introduces young children to a structured learning environment.
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t rely on someone else to be water safe for you. This especially applies to mom and dad- in order for you to keep your kids safe around the water YOU have to feel safe and confident in your abilities. If a parent is uncomfortable or lacks confidence in their own swimming skills, this will translate to the children. Even as an adult there is no shame in taking lessons to improve your skills. Think of the airline safety warnings for air masks- you can’t save your kids if you wouldn’t be able to save yourself. Many aquatics programs (including CBRC’s) offer adult lessons, even during the off days and winter months. Learning to swim confidently is something you can do for your kids as well as yourself.
Families shouldn’t be afraid of water play- respectful, yes, but not scared. Equipped with solid swimming skills and safety knowledge, your family can enjoy all the pool has to offer this summer. Be alert, stay cool, and have fun! We hope to see you at Pelican Bay!
We wish you good health!
Columbia Basin Racquet Club