Five tips to keep kids safe at the pool.
Summer is officially in full force, and swimming pools are packed with families trying to catch a little relief from the Oklahoma sun. There are few things my kids love more than swimming. They typically can’t wait to put on their suits and splash. While it may be fun and games for them, pool time means something completely different for parents. It means constantly scanning the water for signs of struggle, keeping the littlest ones upright in the shallow end and talking out of the side of your mouth to other parents as you all keep vigilant watch. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), we have reason for water worries. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children ages 1 to 4 years old, and sadly, the CDC says that in 2015 more than 200 children drowned in swimming pools over the summer months.
While teaching kids to swim can save lives, as parents, we all have our own preferences and beliefs about at what age a child should learn and what techniques should be used. No matter your choice, the United States Specialty Sports Association suggests following these guidelines so you’re not putting your kids at increased risk while they’re learning to swim:
1. Follow a routine
Don’t be nonchalant about entering the water. Create a process the child must go through before entering a pool, such as putting on a swim diaper, changing into a swimsuit, and applying sunscreen. Having a pool routine will teach your child that the pool cannot simply be jumped into at any time, and it can help reduce the chances that your child might be tempted to try to go swimming without you being aware.
2. Don’t allow your child to be the one to decide when to enter the pool
Create a verbal cue for your child that must be given by you before he or she can enter the pool. This creates an additional barrier of entry for your child if used consistently. He or she will learn that jumping into the pool requires permission first.
3. Never use flotation devices or water wings
While life jackets are designed to save a child from drowning and should always be worn near open bodies of water like lakes or the ocean, flotation devices and wings can slip out of a child’s grasp or fall off. This can create a false sense of security around water. Instead, teach children how to locate, swim to, and then climb hand-over-hand along the pool wall to a step or ladder where a safe exit can be made from the pool.
4. Don’t always use goggles with your kids in the pool
Teach them to open their eyes under the water so if they fall in they can open their eyes and find the side or a step and leave the pool safely.
5. Don’t let your fears hold them back from learning to swim
Do not panic if your child’s face dips below the surface of the pool or transfer feelings of fear to your child if that happens. For very young children, practice having them put their entire face under water in the bathtub and blow bubbles to build their comfort with water.
Of course, always keep children under constant supervision around water, install fences and barriers around pools, and know CPR. And enroll your kids in swim lessons when they—and you—are ready to take the plunge.