As temperatures heat up and summer draws closer, many families will start heading to the water to have fun and cool off. Whether it is to go fish on a lake, swim in a pool, or surf in the ocean, water-based activities are the most popular in the summer! With those activities, however, comes risk for injury, or even death.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages one to four. While these stats are scary, drowning is preventable with proper safety measures in place. In this article, we will explore top water safety tips for kids!
In order to cover as many points as possible, we will be breaking down the tips into three categories of water safety: home-based water safety, pool safety, and open water (for example, lakes and oceans) safety.
Any amount of water is considered a safety risk for children. Did you know a drowning can occur in as little as an inch of water? The best way to keep children safe in any body of water is to stay diligent and always supervise them. We will go over many water safety tips in this article, but the first line of defense is you! If your children are around water, your radar needs to be up and your concern for their safety needs to equal that of them being behind the wheel of a car. If your children are going to be around water under the supervision of someone else, make sure they take the same precautions.
In addition to water safety, be mindful of the sun as well! Sun damage can occur with just 15 minutes of exposure, so be sure to follow sun safety as well when outside playing in the water.
Home Water Safety Tips
With more time being spent at home, it is important to consider water safety measures to put in place under your own roof.
This tip can apply to all areas of water safety. Find a local CPR certification course and take it! If you have children, knowing how to administer CPR is of utmost importance. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) looks different on children, depending on their age and development. There are different methods to use for smaller lungs and airways. If your child stops breathing due to water inhalation, being CPR certified could save their life. If you have already become CPR certified, practice it often to where it becomes muscle memory.
Empty containers of water
Buckets of water (or any other liquid) around the house should be emptied when not in use. Dispose of the water and turn the bucket upside down to dry and to prevent water from collecting.
Empty kiddie pools after use
For small kiddie pools, empty the water after play time is over and turn the pool upside down or store away when not in use. When children play in kiddie pools, they will naturally want to return to play some more, no matter if it is time to swim or not. Eliminate the risk of them sneaking off to play in the water by emptying the small kiddie pools after each use.
Keep toilet lids closed and locked
Install childproof locks on all toilet seats. This is especially important if you have children who are potty training and might take it upon themselves to try and use the toilet when you are not around.
Stay within arms reach of your child in the bathtub
Fill the bathtub with only the amount of water that is needed for your child to get clean. Eliminate distractions during bath time for yourself so that your focus can be on your child. My 16-month-old daughter loves bath time. I put my phone away and make sure other household needs are taken care of so that my focus can be on my daughter the whole time. As with other containers of water, make sure to empty the water after the bath.
Swimming Pool Safety Tips
One of the most sought-after activities during the summer, especially in the southeast where I live, is a day at the swimming pool! There are few things as refreshing as jumping into a pool of water on a hot, humid day. The appeal of a swimming pool is like a magnet to a child, so the following tips should always be followed on a pool day.
Teach your child to swim
This tip ranks high on the list, along with getting CPR certified. As soon as your preschooler is able, swim lessons should be a part of their extracurricular activities. The American Red Cross has developed swim lessons for children, and you can often find local instructors as well. If you live in a neighborhood with a swim/tennis community, ask the HOA if they have referrals for swim instructors. The YMCA also offers swim lessons. Near where I live, a local college opens their swim facilities to the public for swim lessons during the summer. Certified swim instructors will be able to teach your child to swim and how to survive if they should find themselves in a life-threatening situation in the pool.
Make sure your kids wear flotation devices
For toddlers who are early swimmers or do not know how to swim, outfit them in puddle-jumper style flotation devices. These life vests are perfect for allowing them to move about and continue to learn how to swim safely. For infants, a swim ring with holes for their legs and a sun canopy are perfect for introducing them to the pool with an adult. Other floating toys like pool noodles and kick boards are great to keep handy as well. These can be used to continue to learn how to swim and are used in water rescue efforts as well!
Do not rely solely on a lifeguard
If you frequent a swimming pool that is staffed by a lifeguard, then that is great! However, you should not rely on a lifeguard to babysit your children while they are in the pool. A lifeguard is stationed to help prevent and respond to water rescue emergencies. They cannot keep their eyes on just your child, so it is important to remember to supervise your children no matter if there is a lifeguard or not. Talk to your children about what the lifeguard can do and teach them to listen for the lifeguard’s whistle and commands.
Teach your children pool rules
Most public pools have posted rules that you should review with your children before swimming. If there are no posted rules, teach your children to follow some simple pool safety advice:
- No running. In a wet, slippery environment, running can lead to unintentional falling into the pool or on hard concrete.
- No diving. Most swimming pools are not deep enough to accommodate diving.
- Be mindful of others. Advise your children not to splash others (where possible) and be careful of swimming into people.
- No horseplay. This one is important! Children should never cling onto the backs of others or horseplay in a pool. What starts as a fun game can lead to a life-threatening situation in an instant.
- Do not crowd the pool. If the pool seems overcrowded, have your child wait until some of the people dissipate to swim. A crowded pool makes for a very unsafe environment for swimming.
Be familiar with the pool
Make sure your child knows where to find the entrance and exit ladders of the pool. Note where the depth markers are and how to read them. With my own children, I have them identify where the deep end of the pool begins so they can create a visual marker for that spot. They are not allowed to go into any depth that exceeds their height.
Install fences around swimming pools
If you have a swimming pool at home, install a fence around the perimeter of the pool. The fence should be at least four feet high with gates that self-close and self-latch. Be mindful of when children learn to unlatch the gate themselves as well!
Open Water Safety Tips
Swimming in open water offers a completely different environment, and completely new dangers, when it comes to staying safe. Whether your child will be swimming in a lake, pond, or the ocean, always follow these water safety tips for open water.
Always wear a life jacket on boats
Before going on a boat, always outfit your child with a proper fitting life jacket and keep it on them for the duration of the boat ride. If you are renting a boat, most companies provide a life jacket. However, you need to fit your child to the life jacket before boarding. Life jackets should be worn the entire time your child is on the boat, during water activities such as tubing or water skiing, fishing, and when swimming.
Learn to tread water
In addition to learning how to swim, your child should know how to tread water. The ocean has strong currents and rip tides that can pull your child out to sea. Any efforts to outswim a rip tide will lead to exhaustion and treading water will help keep their heads above water until help can arrive.
Be mindful of currents and rip tides
Public swimming areas at the ocean usually note if a rip tide or strong current is present. However, it is very possible that a rip tide or strong current can occur without anyone knowing first. Advise your children of how to react if they are caught in the current and to swim with it, not against it.
Have a responsible adult with your child
If your child is going to be swimming in open water, have them swim with a responsible adult. If your child experiences distress while swimming or gets caught in a current, they need someone within talking distance to alert.
Respect the open water
Teach your child the difference between swimming in a pool verses swimming in open water. Riverbeds, ocean floors, and lake beds can contain all manner of wildlife, sticks, rocks, shells, and uneven surfaces. If they are not familiar with swimming in this environment, it can lead to injury.
Watch out for waves
The power of a strong wave cannot be underestimated. If your child is playing in the surf at the ocean, or even on a shore at a lake, make sure you are being vigilant about waves. My family often takes our boat to a local lake that is known to have waves that rival the ocean. Just because water appears relatively calm, a large wave can occur at any moment. Large boats passing by can cause heavy wakes and changing weather out at sea can affect the strength of waves at the shore.
Keep track of the weather
Especially at the beach, the weather can change in an instant creating an unsafe environment for being on the open water. Turn weather alerts on using your phone. Some phone apps allow notifications for when lightening strikes within a certain distance or rain is expected in a short time frame. If severe weather encroaches, seek immediate shelter out of the water.
Water safety is extremely important when you have children. Having formerly worked in law enforcement, I can guarantee these tips would have prevented many of the drowning calls we had. Complacency is not an option when your children are around water. Always remain vigilant and teach others these safety tips as well!
Most kids are drawn to the water and love any activity involving getting soaked. Some of the best memories are made in the water. Make sure the memories are positive ones by following these water safety tips!