Swimming is a favorite summer activity, but it can be a dangerous one. Drowning is the second cause of death for children and so many of them happen under adult supervision. Here are 13 water safety tips that you and your children should always follow to ensure a fun and safe swimming experience.
1. Caregivers should learn basic CPR.
Learn how to give CPR to children by taking a local class and ask everyone who watches your child to do the same. For now, go ahead and look through this handy reference to familiarize yourself with what you should do should a emergency occur. Every second matters when there is a drowning accident and child CPR is something that you can do while waiting for help to come.
2. Establish swimming rules and enforce them always.
Before going swimming, talk with your children and establish a few rules that should always be followed. Some suggestions include:
- They must always ask permission before going into the water. You could decide on a verbal cue or a signal that lets them know that it’s okay to jump into the water. They cannot begin swimming until you give the cue.
- Young children should always enter the water feet first, on their tummies. This helps them be more cautious of the water and be more aware of how deep the water is as they’re going in, as opposed to going into the water on the stairs.
- Absolutely no running. This can be hard to enforce, but oh so important. Kids can slip in wet environments, hit their heads, and fall to the bottom of the pool. Lots of reminders and training will be necessary to help your kids follow this rule.
- No dunking. Sometimes kids don’t know their limits and an accident can occur as a result of playful dunking that has gone too far.
Remind your children of your family’s swimming rules and discuss them often, during family meetings, breakfast time before swimming, and other times when you’re not at the pool or beach. This helps them remember the rules more then when at the pool, when they might be too excited to listen to you talking about rules.
3. Create barriers between the child and the body of water.
Whether you have a pool at home, a beach a few blocks away, or a stream behind your house, ensure that there is something to prevent your kids from falling into the water. Pools should be equipped with a pool gate that is lockable and self-closing. A pool cover is another way to protect your children. An alarm system is a good idea; it can alert you if a child goes out a door or a window without permission. Add locking mechanisms to sliding doors and any other entry points between your child and the water.
Test out these barriers to make sure they work as intended. Go down to your kids’ level and check whether they would be able to climb over a gate with a chair, undo a safety latch, or slip through an unsecured window.
4. Remove all toys and floaties from the water when you’re done swimming.
A colorful toy or a lone floatie in the middle of a pool can be alluring to a small child, who might fall in while trying to grab it. Make sure the pool is empty of all toys and floaties and remember to close the pool gate behind you.
5. Check the pool or any body of water FIRST when you can’t find a child.
Again, seconds matter when someone is struggling to breathe while in water. Check the pool (or any other body of water) immediately when you notice you can’t find a kid.
6. Designate an adult to watch the kids with no distractions.
Sometimes when there are a lot of kids and parents, there is a false security that someone must be watching. There’s a lot of distractions and good conversation to be had, and you look away for a few minutes. An accident can happen during these few minutes, so take the time to designate an adult (not an older child) to watch the children. You could take turns every 30 minutes or so. Ideally, there should be a supervising adult per three kids. Other people should know not to distract these supervising adults at any time until their shift is over.
7. Children under the age of 5 should always be at an arm’s reach.
A drowning accident can happen fast, so if you have a child that is younger than five years old, make sure you’re right there next to them at all times while swimming. You’ll be able to grab them and pull them up when they fall into the water, even in shallow water. They might get disoriented and become unable to get their heads above water.
8. Put life jackets on your children when on a boat or in open water.
The life jackets should fit well and be comfortable. But the most important thing is that your kids actually wear them! If your kids aren’t used to wearing life vests, they’ll resist and become cranky, and you might give up and let them not wear them. Give them a chance to get used to wearing them at the home or at a pool before going on your watery adventure.
9. Establish a getting-ready-to-swim routine.
Decide on a routine that you’ll do with your kids every time they go swimming. The routine can be as simple as putting on a swimming diaper and then sunscreen. The key is to do the routine consistently. Your kids will automatically try to do the routine before jumping into water, helping prevent them from doing so impulsively.
10. Encourage your kids to open their eyes in water.
Kids should get used to opening their eyes while underwater, without googles, so they’re able to look around and find a way out if they accidentally fall in water.
11. Have your kids practice putting their heads in water in the bathtub.
Show them how to put their face into the water while bathing. Have them blow bubbles underwater. This will help them become more comfortable with water and panic less if they find themselves underwater.
12. Learn the signs of drowning.
Drowning is quiet and quick, nothing like what it looks like on TV or in the movies. Here is a good article to read to understand what drowning really looks like and what to look for when you’re supervising at the pool.
13. Have a cell phone on hand.
If there’s an emergency, you don’t want to be running around looking for a phone. Have a cell phone or smartphone on you or near you at all times when kids are swimming.
“I’m Elisa and I live in Austin, Texas with my husband and our two little girls. I used to teach reading and writing, but now I stay at home with my two kiddos and read and write in my spare time. I also love to undertake DIY projects, find new recipes on Pinterest, and dream about someday finally completing our home. Above all, I love to learn about new things and sharing my new-found knowledge with others.”