Dive into summer fun by teaching your child about water safety. Summer and water go hand in hand with families all over the country hanging out at the pool, boating, or taking that relaxing seaside
vacation. Children need to understand how to be safe in and around different water situations. Whatever water fun is in your summer plans, teaching a child about water safety begins in the home.
Water Safety Begins in the Home
Parental responsibility are two key words to remember when your child is in or near the water. Accidental drownings happen far too often and, unfortunately, a good portion of them happen in the home. Begin teaching your child at an early age that a parent should always be with them when they are in the bath tub. Never allow a small child to turn on the bath faucet or bathe alone. When bathing a child, a parent should always be right there within arms length. Small babies should be bathed in a baby bath tub which holds very little water to help keep the baby safe. Giving your baby a daily bath will help them become used to the bathing experience. For babies 6-9 months a sit-n-splash device designed with surrounding support helps the child sit upright in the tub and provides a further measure of safety. For active toddlers, the best protection is having mom or dad right there during the bath. Bath time for toddlers can also be water safety teaching time. Talk to your child about water safety while helping them bathe and show them how to blow bubbles in the water by blowing through the nose and mouth. Encourage them to practice the bubble blowing technique. The fun pre-school song below is often used in Parent/Tot Swim Classes and is fun to sing during bubble blowing.
“I had a tiny turtle,
His name was tiny Tim.
I dropped him in the water
to see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water.
He ate up all the soap,
And now my little Turtle
Has bubbles in his throat.”
Mom or dad can also help a toddler learn how to position their body for back and front floats. These basic learning experiences will help to prepare a child for level 1 swimming classes and help them further understand water safety.
Water safety in the home does not end with the bathtub. Any free standing water in the home presents a danger to small children. Buckets of water should be carefully monitored so that a small child does not fall in. Toilet lids should be closed or, even better, locked so that an exploring child does not fall in head first. The washing machine should also be carefully monitored for the same reason. Keeping your child safe and making them aware of water safety at home will help prepare them for bigger water experiences.
Let’s Hit the Pool!!
Small children are naturally curious and a big sparkly swimming pool is sure to draw their attention. Children’s lungs are small and a small child can drown within two minutes. If you have a backyard pool, a high fence with vertical bars and a self-locking gate are essential to keep your child safe. The fence should surround the pool and be at least four feet high. All pool access doors within the home should have a barrier, ideally the pool fence. A home itself should never substitute as part of a pool fence. Small children can easily slip out if a pool access door is carelessly left unlocked.
A self-locking gate to the pool entrance will automatically lock when the gate is closed. Be sure to keep the key in a safe place where children will be unable to access it. A pool that is in good repair is also a safe pool. Concrete, diving boards, waterslides, as well as the gate and fence should always be in good repair. Chipped or broken concrete can provide unsafe footing and a break in the fence or a broken lock on the gate could result in an unfortunate tragedy.
Of course the best drowning protection around a pool is the parent. Never leave a child unattended around a pool and never take your eyes off them. Let the answering machine catch the phone calls and let the doorbell ring! Too many pool side tragedies occur when a parent steps away, even for just a moment. If your child is 3 or older, talk to them and help them learn and understand these pool safety rules.
1. Never get into the pool by yourself!
“Mommy or daddy should always be with you in or around the pool. You should never ever get into the pool without mommy or daddy.”
2. Walk, never run around a pool.
“The pool is made up of concrete.” Have the child feel the sides of the pools and ask them if it is soft or hard. When they understand that it feels hard, explain that if they run around the pool they could fall and hit their head on the hard surface which would give them a big “owie.” Tell them they should never, ever, run around a pool.
3. Never push or jump on other people.
“It’s fun to swim and play with our friends, but we need to be careful that we do not push them or jump on them, even during water games. This might cause them to get hurt.”
4. Swim in the pool where it is safest for you. Help children who are old enough understand that the numbers on the sides of the pool are depth levels.
“Since you are just learning how to swim, you need to stay in the shallow end which is here.” As children grow and become more proficient in swimming, they may want to try swimming in the deeper water as well as diving. Help your child understand which areas of the pool are safe for their particular skills. Also, be sure to guide your child to deep enough water for any diving experiences.
5. Don’t eat just prior to swimming as cramps could develop and never eat or chew gum while swimming which could cause choking. ”Don’t eat for one hour before swimming and you must never have food or gum in your mouth when swimming in the pool. You could choke.”
Floaties or water flotation devices are fun, but they should never substitute for parental supervision. A small child could easily get turned upside down in a ring and floaties could accidentally get punctured or slip on a child’s arm and be ineffective. In the pool, or any water situation, nothing substitutes for the eyes of a watchful parent.
Who wants to go Boating!!
Summer water fun may also include boating. Boating is a fun experience for children. It is exciting to travel over the blue-green water and watch the water spray. Many family boating experiences occur on lakes or ponds. As with a pool experience, children should be carefully monitored so that they do not climb over the sides of the boat and fall. Explaining boating rules to your child will help them have a safe boating experience
1. A Coast Guard approved life jacket that is appropriate for the child’s size should be worn on the boat and in the water at all times. Before the boating experience, be sure to have your child try on the life jacket at home to be sure that it fits properly and is in good condition. Have them wear it in your backyard or local pool to get an idea of how it feels to float in the water Have them practice swimming strokes with the jacket on until they are comfortable with the feeling.
2. The water in lakes and ponds can be murky and the bottom could be full of rocks, trash, and/or plant life. Depth levels in lakes and ponds are not clear cut and both children and parents need to exercise caution. Have your child wear water shoes to protect their feet from whatever is on the bottom and be sure that they are extra cautious in their diving. A no-diving rule is highly recommended. Plant life in a lake can easily wrap around little legs and feet. Be
sure to watch and listen for your child carefully, should they find themselves tangled up in a weedy situation.
3. Propellers also pose a threat to any child swimming near the back of a boat. Before the boating experience, show your child where the propellers are located on the boat and explain how they rotate to make the boat go. Make your child aware that the blades are sharp and when they are going they move very fast. Help your child understand that they should never, ever swim near a propeller and that while swimming the propeller should always be turned off and the boat anchored. Instruct your child to swim away from the boat if the propeller is accidentally turned on while they are in the water. Before going boating, have your child practice going down the step ladder into the water. Show them how to get into the water and swim or push off in a direction that is opposite to where the propellers are located.
4. As with a pool experience, eating just prior to swimming is not a good idea. Food and gum in the mouth while swimming can cause choking. Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed as they might interfere in an adult’s operation of the boat and a parent’s ability to supervise their child in the water. Also, be sure to follow proper safety precautions and local advisories should the fine boating weather turn into a storm.
Ah, a Relaxing Sea Side Vacation
A family vacation to the ocean sounds very inviting and relaxing. The ocean is beautiful and the breeze refreshing. The picture alone can put any frazzled parent to sleep. But when visiting the sea-side with children, parents will want to keep their eyes wide open and these safety tips in mind.
1. Check the local weather and sea side conditions before you go. If there are lifeguards on duty check the weather conditions at the lifeguard station on the beach. Lifeguards can also inform on areas where the waves and rip-tides are strong and unsafe for swimming. They can point out markers and flags that will indicate safe and unsafe areas.
2. Children should stay close to the shallow water of the shore with parental supervision. Be sure to watch toddlers carefully as small children can drown in a very shallow amount of water. Older children who want to swim deeper into the ocean should always swim with an adult buddy who is a strong swimmer. A life jacket may also be used, but parents should exercise caution. Floating and swimming in a life jacket requires a child to know how to float and swim over waves. A child unfamiliar with how a life jacket feels and works in ocean water could wind up in trouble and be tossed by the ocean waves. The local Red Cross offers lessons and training on how to properly wear and use a life jacket.
3. Older children with stronger swimming skills should only swim out into the ocean with a parent or older family member. Before a seaside vacation, teach older children how to swim out of a riptide. A riptide is a strong current that will quickly pull a person out to deeper water. It is caused by a wave build up on shore where waves build up and pull out to the ocean. They often occur near stationary objects like piers and reefs. Instruct your child on how to swim out of a riptide and how to be safe in the ocean before you ease into a lounge chair.
1. Never swim alone in the ocean. Always have an adult buddy.
2. A strong pull on your body carrying you farther from shore and into the ocean is a rip tide.
3. If you feel you are caught in a riptide, start swimming parallel to the shore.
4. Swim for a bit and as soon as you feel the pull stop, start swimming quickly for the shore.
5. If you tire or find yourself in trouble, yell loudly for help to your adult buddy or to the life guard and people on shore if your adult buddy is unable to help you.
6. Never panic. Panicking is hard not to do in a dangerous situation but panicking can waste valuable energy that needs to be directed toward swimming.
7. Never allow your child to swim in an area where sharks may present a threat.
8. Water shoes are also a good idea in the ocean in the shallow areas only, particularly if there is a lot of undersea life and if there is a danger of crabs.
Always advise your child to be alert while swimming in the ocean. It’s a big, exciting place which can present danger as well as beauty.
Whatever is on your agenda this summer for water fun, be sure to keep your child safe. Teach your child to always swim with a buddy, use sun-screen, and follow the safety rules for each individual water experience. Small babies and infants should always be held or supported in the water and all children deserve conscientious parental supervision. Help your children become more proficient swimmers. Enroll them in swimming lessons through a national program such as the Red Cross, YMCA, and Starfish. These programs can be found through City Parks and Recreation Programs as well as at local recreational centers. The YMCA even offers a free class called Splash to help children learn more about water safety. When water safety tips and rules are taught in the home, accidents are less likely to happen. Summer fun can start and end with peace of mind knowing your child understands water safety.
Links to help teach your child water safety:
This website boatingsidekicks offers fun car games and activities to help children learn how to be safe while boating.
This site offers a fun water safety book that you can down load and help your child color.
The American Academy of Pediatrics statement on water safety. This site AAP Water Safety also offers information on first aid, CPR and how to keep your child safe.
More information on barrier and fence protection around a pool.
Short Bio on the Author: Debby Hoffer lives in South Jordan, Utah and is the mother of five children from age’s fourteen to four. She has written articles for Mythos software and had a short quote in the “Vent” column in the Arizona Republic. Debby has participated with her children in Red Cross Swimming and Starfish programs. As a child, Debby enjoyed boating on Utah Lake as well as fishing and swimming in the pond located on her family property at Lone Oak Farm. While living in Arizona, Debby had a friend whose child died in an accidental drowning. Debby wants all children to be safe and hopes this article is informative and helpful to parents everywhere.