Water plays a big part in our favorite summer memories: long days spent at the pool and family vacations to the beach are the backdrop for many a classic summer vacation. But as we are making sure we have bathing suits that fit, toys and unexpired sunscreen (more on that here), one more thing must be added to the list: water safety. We have compiled our top 10 water safety tips to make sure you family stays happy and healthy this summer!
It’s a fact that’s not discussed as much as it should be, but drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children aged 1-4 and for 5-9s is second only to car accidents. Though these are really frightening statistics, luckily it’s also something that is really preventable. Awareness plays a huge part in that, and there are lots of simple changes you can make to your poolside behaviors to help keep your family safe while having fun around the water this summer.
1. Drowning doesn’t look like drowning
We’ve seen it in movies: arms flailing, splashing, screaming for help, but that’s not actually what drowning looks like. Though water distress is dangerous, too, actual drowning is quick and silent. As parents of small kids we all know that quiet, while often all we are ever hoping for, is rarely a good sign. This is very much the case in the pool. Look for a mouth at water level, head tilted back, eyes closed or unfocused, and arms moving downward.
2. Never swim alone
As tempting and as harmless as it can seem to fill a kiddie pool and let your kids have at it in the backyard, no one, not even adults, should be swimming alone or unsupervised. A trip and a fall into the water can happen to anyone, even the strongest of swimmers.
3. Choose rental properties carefully
Booking a vacation home? How dreamy does the idea of a private pool in the backyard sound? So fun and convenient. But really pay attention to the safety measures if you’re booking a home with a pool. Look for a fence with a lockable gate, and if those are not abundantly clear, ask the owner for specifics. If you have young kids, really think if your family can or wants to manage dedicating so much attention to this amenity.
4. Lots of people watching = nobody is watching
All kids love a pool party, but if you’re gathering with a few parents, take turns being the designated “watcher”. It can be so easy to get carried away in a conversation, or waiting to hear for distress to react to something bad happening, but since drowning is so quick and so quiet, it’s so important to make sure one person is always giving their full attention to what’s happening in the water. It goes without saying that whoever is watching, phone in the pocket!
5. Any “body” of water is a risk
Whether it’s an ocean or a minimally filled kiddie pool, kids should never be left unattended near open water. Drain water tables, buckets, bathtubs, and close toilets. Keep all toys out of the pool when not in use, and ideally in an area safely away from the pool itself so as to not risk the temptation of kids wanting to go after them.
6. Check drain covers
Anti-entrapment pool drain covers are now legally required in commercial pools in the U.S. thanks to the Virginia Graeme Baker Act, but it is worth it to educate yourself on what those look like and to take a look yourself before your family swims. Here’s a video from the ZAC Foundation on what you need to know. Additionally, it’s wise to look for any articles of clothing that could snag and get stuck and to tie up long hair.
7. Swim lessons – even for you!
Kids are ready much earlier than you’d think to start getting comfortable in the water and to learn skills that could save their lives. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends starting swim lessons as early as age 1 for learning skills such as rolling over from front to back in the water, and even earlier for learning to not be fearful in the water. The USA Swimming Foundation is a great place to start looking for lessons near you, as is the Infant Swimming Resource. And if you yourself are not comfortable in the water, teach your kids that it’s never too late to learn a new skill!
8. Get CPR certified
If you’ve never taken a CPR course, parenthood is a great time to check one out. This life-saving skill can make a huge difference in those critical moments. You can even do a course online through the American Red Cross.
9. Don’t rely on floaties
It’s tempting to rely on the security of floating devices such as water wings, but nothing on the market is completely reliable. Despite some confusing marketing, please note that the U.S. Coast Guard does not approve any “learning to swim” devices such as puddle jumpers, and you should not rely on these to keep your kids safe. In fact, swim instructors overwhelmingly agree that styles that keep your child vertical in the water encourage improper and unsafe body positioning for swimming. Swim lessons, while also not 100% reliable for staying safe, are much better in the long run than learning poor habits. That being said, well-fitting life vests (you’ll find models of these that are U.S. Coast Guard approved) are an absolute necessity when on a moving vehicle in open water.
10. Talk to your kids about water safety
Though sometimes it feels like what we say goes in one ear and out the other with our kids, consistently explaining why we do things to stay safe actually does stick. Whether it’s looking both ways crossing the street, buckling seat belts, or just our constant barrage of “no!”s throughout the day, we do so much to try to keep our kids safe. The fact that drowning is such a huge risk yet something so preventable means it is worthy of a conversation. Make rules abundantly clear, talk about what we do to stay safe near water, and stick to them!
Drowning or other injuries related to water are prevalent but they are totally preventable! Just by taking the time to read these tips, you’ve already taken a big step in keeping your family safe. Awareness is a huge part of water safety, so spread the word with your friends and family and encourage everyone to be smart around the pool this summer!
For more information and resources, check out the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and Abbey’s Hope.
Do you have any additional water safety tips that you can share? Let us know in the comments below!
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