During hot summer afternoons, kids love splashing around in the water and parents love their kids being able to enjoy the outdoors. But it also means knowing how to be safe. Fortunately, my sister spent her pre-grad school days as a babysitter, lifeguard and swim instructor during her vacations from school and has some great tips on swim safety. Thanks for your expertise Mili!
7 TIPS ON SWIM SAFETY FOR KIDS AND PARENTS
By: Mili Shah
Swim season is coming up and with all the fun that comes with being in the water, here are a few things I’ve learned to be very important in my years as a lifeguard and nanny. I’ve worked in both community pools as well as lifeguarding and babysitting at private parties. It’s easy to forget about pool safety, but that’s what I’m here for! I hope that these tips prove to be helpful while you prepare for all your summer festivities…
1. Set up your own pool with proper equipment and maintenance.
- If you have your own pool this is really important. Here’s a list of things that you can do :Set up a fence with a latch around the pool
- Apply covers to the pool drains
- Have life rings and reaching poles close by
- Skimmers aren’t exactly the best reaching rings. Sometimes they come apart if they are the type that extends. Have something specific to pull somebody out if needed.
- Learn how to manage the chemical levels as well as the backwash system. While it’s always easier when somebody else does it, have your pool maintenance person show you in case you ever had to do it yourself. Chlorine levels can fluctuate depending on how many people are swimming, if it’s rained or if it’s been really hot. Also, pool water gets dirty, backwashing often will ensure clean water to swim in.
2. Establish a set of pool rules.
- This is a great way to teach your child proper pool etiquette, and gives him/her a basic set of guidelines for what is appropriate behavior regardless of whether they are at home, at a friends pool party or even a community pool. Children learn by example, so it’s important that the parents (or babysitter!) follows these rules as well.
- If you don’t have a set of rules, here is something basic that I put together based on my experience as a Lifeguard
- No running on pool deck
- No food or drinks while in the pool
- No glass containers in the pool area
- Children under the age of ___ must be accompanied by a caretaker
- Children under the age of ___ must be supervised
- No diving except in designated areas
- Leave the pool in case of a thunderstorm
- No pets allowed in the pool*
- If child is not potty trained, he/she must wear an appropriate diaper*
*These last two rules are totally up to you, but know that if anybody (human or animal) poops in the pool, everybody needs to be cleared out, and the pool would need to be shocked with chemicals, backwashed, and then you have to wait until the chemicals are at a level where it is safe for swimming again. The whole process takes about 5 hours. I know from experience. Otherwise, you run the risk of a Staph infection on the skin, or digestive problems from ingesting the bacteria.
3. Learn to swim.
This is the BEST way to ensure safety for everyone in the pool. Swimming comes easily for most children and introducing them to the water at an early age can save their lives. I’ve given swim lessons to kids as young as 8 months where we taught her how to roll over if she was face down in water, which did prove helpful when she fell out of her swim donut.
4. Get basic CPR and First Aid training for families.
This is important for every adult who takes care of children. Not only was this mandatory for my lifeguard training, the family that I used to nanny for required that I have First aid and CPR. I’ve kept up with both for almost 12 years now, and in any situation, I’m prepared as the first responder.
5. Watch your child while he or she is/or isn’t in the pool.
- If your child is younger than 7 years it’s best to accompany them in the water. Not only does it ensure their safety, but it can be a fun experience for you both!
- If he/she is between 7-11 years, just sitting on the side and watching them is fine. But if they don’t know how to swim, be vigilant!
- Usually, if they are 12+ they are mature enough to go to the pool and swim on their own. Especially if they’ve been taught good poolside behavior.
- While it’s important to watch the kids that are in the pool, it’s also very important to watch the kids who aren’t in the pool. I’m sure the parents reading this can agree that, when those babies become mobile, they can find their way into many places, including pools. This is very important for when you are having a pool party or if the pool is easily accessible.
6. Swimmies, floatation devices, and lifeguards aren’t babysitters!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call parents back after putting some floaties on their kid and dropping them in the pool. While the lifeguard is there to ensure the safety of the pool patrons, we also have a lot of other responsibilities. Floaties can fail, the lifeguard can get distracted by other children, or a mess that needs to be cleaned, so stay and watch your child! If you can’t, then hire a babysitter.
7. Keep a charged and working phone close by.
You never know what’s going to happen, it’s always important to have a phone close by in case of an emergency.
But above all, enjoy the water! Any other tips you have on swim safety? Would love to hear below!