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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

Summer Safety Series: Swimming with Kids

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

Summer is just around the corner, and there's nothing like a weekend spent splashing in the water to stay cool. Here's what you need to know about water safety when taking your kids out to the lake, pool, or ocean for a dip.

Anyone that's raised a child know how irrationally dangerous a child of any age can be when presented with the opportunity to have something go wrong. Most of us who have survived the toddler years with our kids have the gray hair to prove how many times we had to snatch them up at the last minute when they found yet another object or activity that could lead to unfortunate outcomes.

With the weather heating up outside and everyone wanting to cool down, one of the biggest concerns parents need to be educated about is water safety.

Did you know little ones can drown in as little as one to two inches of water?

An average of nearly 800 kids per year in the U.S. die from drowning, with those below the age of 1 having this occur primarily in unsupervised baths, littles ones between 1 and 4 years losing their lives in pools, and those 5 and up (including teens) drowning in natural bodies of water such as lakes and oceans.

Here are some things you can keep in mind and take precautions for to ensure your and your kids have a fun and safe time playing in water.

Keeping Your Children Safe Around Water

Here are some of the ways you can maximize safety when knowing your child will be in or around water:

  • Never leave them unsupervised

  • Never let small children in water without an adult

  • Use floaties and life jackets to prevent drowning

  • Educate them on the risks of being in or near water

  • Consider enrolling your child in swimming classes

  • Enroll in a CPR class

Never Leave Children Unsupervised Around Water

It should really go without saying—but is especially important to emphasize—that children of any age should never be left unattended or unsupervised around any body of water. Whether it's a toddler or younger child around something as minimal as a kiddie pool or an older child or teen that may be swimming in a full-size pool or playing around at the beach. At no point should any child be left unsupervised around bodies of water.

It only takes a few seconds for drowning to occur or even for healthy children that are great swimmers to experience an unexpected medical emergency and no longer be able to keep themselves afloat. Drowning is silent and happens very quickly, so if you've stepped indoors for a moment or have even walked a few feet away and turned around to take a phone call while your kid is in the water, those few precious moments can end up with fatal results.

Distraction also applies to parents who may get immersed in conversation while their children are playing in water or who may get easily distracted by screens (phone addicts, I'm talking at you). Your eyes should remain on your child the entire time they're playing, splashing, or swimming in any body of water, including small plastic or inflatable pools. Accidents can occur at any moment (whether drowning or even slipping and getting a serious injury), and remaining vigilant is the only way to prevent serious harm from occurring and causing fatal or long-term damage to your child's health. It will also cost you financially, too.

Courtesy of the Family Education website:

Each year, nationwide, more than 300 children under 5 years old drown in residential swimming pools, usually a pool owned by their family. In addition, more than 2,000 children in that age group are treated in hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries.
Medical costs for submersion victims during the initial hospitalization alone can be quite high. Costs can range from an estimated $2,000 for a victim who recovers fully to $80,000 for a victim with severe brain damage. Some severely brain damaged victims have initial hospital stays in excess of 120 days and expenses in excess of $150,000.

Being irresponsible and careless and not diligently keeping an eye on your child can either cost your child their life or cost you your entire savings trying to help your child recover from an incident that could have been prevented in the first place.

Don't Let Small Children Get in Water Without an Adult

Along the same vein as not leaving children unsupervised, it's also important that small children (typically those 5 and under) always be accompanied by an adult when in the water. Even with swimming lessons or floatation devices to increase their chances of remaining safe, anything can happen, and it's essential that parents and caretakers make sure they stay right by their younger child's side.

You should never be further than arm's length away when your younger child is swimming or floating along, and this is especially true if you're in a natural body of water that may have currents. When swimming or playing around in natural bodies of water, it's strongly recommended that you incorporate wearing a wrist leash* to keep you and your child connected at all times. (These types of leashes are very comfortable and allow for some distance and freedom while keeping you and your child securely attached to each other. We use them whenever our 3yo is having an "extra independent" day and doesn't feel like holding hands while we're out, and they work great.)

Use Floaties and Life Jackets to Prevent Drowning

For any child that doesn't know how to swim yet (as well as those who are learning but may not be "experts" yet), floaties and other floatation devices are strongly recommended to help keep kids above the water.

Arm floaties are a great choice for beginner-level swimmers that still need a bit of extra help, and there are now floatation devices* perfect for babies and toddlers that have arm floaty attachments as well as a thick floatation ring to circle their midsections and keep their upper bodies safely above the top surface of the water. Basically, it's like a life jacket combined with arm floaties.

Speaking of life jackets, if you and your kids are planning on swimming in natural bodies of water or even going out on a boat or pier, going to the beach, or walking down to the closest river, it's essential that all of you wear life jackets. There should be no excuse for a child (regardless of age, so this is including teenagers) not wearing a life jacket when going in or near natural bodies of water, and parents should be sure to model this behavior for their children as well. Although pools are calm enough to generally be safer with just normal floaties, natural water comes a whole other set of potential risks that can impair even the best of young swimmers.

Educate Them on the Risks of Being In or Near Water

This may not be feasible when your child is very young, but it's best to try to educate your children on the dangers of different bodies of water to help them understand why taking safety measures is so important.

Education is the first step in helping our children learn to be safe and responsible in a number of situations, and this is true when it comes to swimming and engaging in other activities related to or near water.

Consider Enrolling Your Child in Swimming Classes

There is now a wide range of swimming lessons offered at a variety of locations for children of all ages. We recommend enrolling your child in one of these classes as soon as they seem comfortable enough in the water to do so. (There are even infant swimming classes now, too!)

The sooner they learn to navigate the water and gain the skills and confidence to help prevent themselves from drowning (even children below the age of 4), the better their chances are when faced with an unsafe and unexpected accident occurring while out in a pool or other body of water.

Enroll in a CPR Class

It's becoming more common that hospitals offer pregnant couples infant CPR classes before their new baby is born, so they're ready for any harrowing situations that may endanger their little one's wellbeing. Additionally, many local fire departments have also begun hosting events in which they teach adults (and even children themselves!) how to perform CPR when they're faced with a life-threatening situation and may need to try to save someone's life.

If you haven't taken a CPR class (especially one that places emphasis on how to provide resuscitation for humans that are quite smaller than adults), check with your local Red Cross, YMCA, fire department, or even hospital to acquire more information on any resources that may be available to help you learn and become certified and prepared for the worst.

To find your closest Red Cross CPR Training event, click here.

The American Red Cross website can also help you locate the nearest swimming and water safety classes in your area, too.

Additional Pool Safety Tips

If you have a swimming pool at home or live in a community that has a public swimming pool that can easily be accessed, be sure you address the following risks to keep children safe around the water:

  • Don't leave toys out around or in the pool that may tempt a little one to go after them.

  • Avoid using any toys that may be unsafe when swimming or jumping into a pool (e.g., outdoor swings, anything with ropes attached, etc.).

  • Be sure to lock all doors, gates, and/or fences blocking access to the pool.

  • Consider adding a door alarm to the door that leads out to your pool (one that "dings" throughout the house whenever the door is opened).

  • If ever using a pool cover, be sure to invest in one that locks—not a standard floating cover, which is not safe for children.

  • Avoid letting your child swallow pool water to avoid potential sickness.

  • Use a marker of some sort to section off the shallow and the deep end of the pool to help children be aware of which areas are safest.

  • Unless your family pet is well-trained, consider leaving them indoors or in an area sectioned off away from the pool to avoid having them accidentally knock children into the water or jump on top of someone already in the pool.

Additional Outdoor Water Safety Tips

When deciding to swim in natural bodies of water, you'll have a few more risks to keep in mind while out at your local lake, beach, creek, or other water feature:

  • Only swim in areas with a lifeguard present.

  • It is extra important that parents stay right with their children whenever swimming or playing in natural bodies of water. This cannot be emphasized enough.

  • Always use a life jacket when swimming, boating, fishing, or engaging in any other activities in or near natural bodies of water!

  • Natural bodies of water tend to be much darker in color, so be sure to dress your child in vibrant swimwear to easily be able to keep sight of them (especially if they were to have an accident and somehow slip underwater).

  • Be mindful of any wildlife that may reside at your local beach or lake. This may include fish, crabs, turtles, snakes, frogs, and other aquatic or amphibious critters. In some areas, there may be aquatic snakes that are venomous, so familiarize yourself with the local wildlife before venturing outdoors with your kids. Learn about the animals you need to be wary of in your particular area so everyone can have a safe and enjoyable time.

  • Many lakes have parasites that can cause a condition referred to as "swimmer's itch." If your child exhibits symptoms of this condition, be sure to contact their pediatrician.

  • It's a common misconception that swimming in the ocean means the salt content of the water will heal up any wounds. Pollution and contamination have turned this into a myth in the present day. If your child has acquired any recent cuts or scratches, it's recommended that you avoid allowing them to swim in any bodies of natural water to prevent serious infections from occurring.

  • Especially at beaches, pay attention to the flags that will be put out each day to tell local beachgoers how the water conditions are for swimmers. Never take children out into rough, choppy, or even remotely uncalm waves.

  • Be aware of any types of drains or similar features that may be located in the body of water in which your kids are playing to avoid the risk of entrapment or other injuries.

More Information

Stay tuned for additional entries in our "Summer Safety Series" to learn more about how to keep your kids safe while still enjoying the summer break and beautiful weather!

Check out our other Summer Safety Series posts:

*This link is provided strictly as a recommendation and a display of the suggested safety product mentioned, and there is no financial compensation for users who choose to click the link or follow through with a purchase.

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