This week we visited a friend at her home for a pool play date. We were all having a great time and in a blink of an eye it all changed from happy to panic. The two 7 year olds were swimming in the three foot water, no life jackets, both able to stand and have their heads over the water, both competent swimmers. My almost 4 year old, Carlyn, could not touch the bottom of the pool, she can swim short distances, but is not a competent swimmer yet, so we had her wear a life jacket.
I was sitting just one foot away from the pool with Naomi (almost one) in my arms and my friend was cleaning up and we were chatting. I thought I was watching the kids, but I missed it all. Carlyn wanted to get something from the bottom of the pool so she got out (she was getting out and jumping in a lot) took off her life jacket, then jumped in. She was screaming (luckily) and able to keep her head above water by treading water, and Rosa yells at me, "Mom, she isn't wearing her life jacket." And I am not prepared.. because I have Naomi in my arms.
Luckily the pool was only three feet deep and I was able to jump in while holding Naomi and keep her head out of the water while I helped Carlyn to the side of the pool. Thanks to her swimming lessons, she was able to keep herself afloat enough to make some noise and she knew what do do.
I was sitting right there... I was (for the most part) watching them swim. But that wasn't enough because when a child drowns, it is silent. They don't scream for help, they down splash a certain way to get your attention because they are under water and fighting with all their might to breathe.
I want to be prepared and make sure I keep my kids safe when we are in or around the water, so I did a bit of research wanted to share my Water Safety Tips with you.
Swim with a buddy - Always swim with a friend so that if something goes wrong they are there to help you. This is especially important for young adults and children who should have adult supervision when swimming.
Set limits based on abilities - know your children's and your own ability to swim and tell your children what they can and cannot do based on their skills. Younger children may be allowed to swim up to their knees at the beach while older children may be able to go up to their waist.
Enroll your child in formal swimming lessons: The America’s National Institute of Health study concluded that participation in formal swimming lessons, like those offered at Aqua Tots Swim Schools of Michigan, was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning for children ages 1 to 4 years (Archives Pediatric Medicine, Vol 163 No 3, March 2009).
Teach and enforce water safety skills - According to the Red Cross there are five essential water safety skills — floating or treading water for one minute without a flotation device; stepping or jumping into water over your head and returning to the surface; treading water or floating in a full circle and then finding a way out of the water; exiting a pool without using a ladder; swimming 25 yards (the length of a standard pool) without stopping. Being able to complete these five tasks will significantly decrease your child's risk of drowning. Enrolling your child in formal swimming lessons, like those offered at Aqua Tots Swim Schools of Michigan, will give your child the ability to learn and practice these skills each week.
Always actively supervise children when they are near water - Eliminate distractions. Things like your phone, a book, or even a conversation can easily allow for a moment you are not watching your children. It only takes a couple of seconds for a child to drown.
Within Reach Supervision for children under the age of 5 - It is highly recommended that children under the afe of five be within your reach when in the pool. I had not even considered this point this week. But from now on, I will be in the pool with Carlyn, and right there.
Make it a rule to always have an adult supervise children when they swim - Be sure the children know they are NOT allowed to go in the pool if there is not an adult actively watching them.
Use US Coast Guard approved life jackets for non-swimmers - If your child is not able to complete the five essential water safety skills (listed above) they should wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket.
Have a plan in case of emergency - This was, in my mind, my big parenting fail of the day. Sure I am there, and watching the girls... but I was not really available to rescue Carlyn without taking Naomi in the pool too. I couldn't set her down next to the pool, because she would have just followed me into the pool. So lesson learned... think about the possible emergencies that may happen and think about how you will handle them.
Here are some other great tips:
- Keep first aid, phone and safety equipment near the pool
- Enroll in a pool safety course
- Learn CPR & First Aid
- Use sunscreen
- Drink plenty of water
- Ensure children take adequate breaks while swimming
- If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or water first.
- NO Diving unless parent says it is okay
- No Swimming in canals or fast moving water
- Only swim in oceans when a life guard is on Duty
- Teach your children about Rip Currents when swimming in the ocean
- Be aware of possible wildlife dangers while in or near natural waters
- Keep toys away from the pool when not in use
- Keep the pool safe when not in use
Have a water safety tip that I missed or care to share your story about a mishap at the pool or beach? Please leave a comment below.