Every late spring and early summer it begins. The start of swim lessons in our household. My children are 3 and 6, we don’t have a pool at home, nor do we visit one on a regular basis. And yet, I feel swimming is an essential skill all children should learn.
Safety being the number one reason, yes. Also? Swimming during summer can be a lot of fun! My kids still have a very cautious attitude toward the water, and honestly, I’m grateful for that. Children seem magnets to water, it’s so enticing to them. This is why we should never let our guards down as parents when we are near pools, spas, rivers, oceans, etc. with our children.
There is just too much at stake. And quite frankly, it only takes minutes of being distracted for a toddler to get in trouble. Every second really does count when it comes to water safety and drowning prevention. To further drive my point home, you should know that fatal drowning remains the 2nd leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4 (CDC).
So, as you head to the pool this summer, please keep these safety tips in mind. This is one area where I cannot emphasize enough that vigilance is key.
Should my child take formal swim lessons?
- A resounding Yes!
- Children age 4 and older, most certainly yes.
- All children should really acquire this skill by age 8.
- Furthermore, the AAP and child safety experts now agree that children ages 1-4 can also benefit from formal swimming lessons. In fact, a study has revealed that there exists an 88% risk reduction of drowning in children ages 1-4 who participate in such lessons.
- When considering to enroll your 1-4 year old in swimming lessons, make this decision based on his developmental, physical, and emotional readiness.
- It has not been shown that babies under one year, benefit from any formal swim lessons.
- Important to keep in mind: formal swim lessons does not mean your child is “drown proof”. These lessons are really part of the overall water safety and drowning prevention package.
- Even older, well skilled swimmers are at risk for drowning if the situation becomes unsafe.
Make sure the pool is safe:
- All home pools should have a safety approved fence around all four sides. The fence should be at least 4 feet high, be self-latching, and have a lock unreachable to little hands.
- All pool and spa drains should have covers to avoid hair entanglement. Also, the suction on these drains can be quite powerful, enough to trap a child’s arm or foot if not properly covered.
- Above ground, inflatable pools should also be fenced in.
- Do not leave standing water in kiddie pools. Keep in mind that it only takes a couple inches of water for a toddler to lose balance, fall, and yes, drown in even that tiny amount of water.
- Post signs near pool about rules, depth of pool, and CPR instructions.
- Pool owners and parents should know CPR and always have a phone nearby.
Safety tips for parents and children around pools:
- Make sure your children know and abide by the no running rule around pools.
- Never leave a child unattended around a pool, not even a “kiddie” pool.
- Infants and toddlers should always be within arm’s reach…really! We call this “touch supervision”. I cannot emphasize this enough. Toddlers lose their balance fairly easily in water and are top heavy, leaving them prone to falling face first in water…no matter how shallow. **(see my case in point below)**
- Arm floaties, noodles, and other floatie toys are not suitable substitutes for “Coast Guard approved” life vests.
- Never become complacent around water and your children. Remain vigilant at all times. It’s far too easy to become distracted at “pool parties”. Each child should have an “assigned” adult watching them at all times. That way, partners don’t assume that the other one is keeping a watchful eye.
- Keep in mind that drowning is often silent, don’t assume that you will hear your child if she is in trouble.
- Older, well skilled swimmers should also always be supervised. Do not allow horseplay that could injure or prevent a child from getting air.
**Case in point: last summer on our vacation, the hubs and I took the kids, then ages 2 and 5, to the hotel’s wading pool for kids. My 2 year old daughter loved splashing around in there, the water was well below her knees. I sat right beside her within touching distance…until…I scooted to the side to grab a toy. Of course, that would be the moment she lost her balance and went face first into the water. She was unable to right herself. While I was there within seconds, it seemed like forever before I was able to reach her. Time moved in slow motion as I scampered to reach my struggling child. I will never forget that moment. So, please….stay in touch!
Enjoy this summer with your children. Have fun swimming and playing in the water, just be sure to keep safety at the forefront, and honestly, do not let your guard down when it comes to water and your child.
Please feel free to add your own safety tips or cautionary tales here. The more we know, the better.
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