Ah, summer. Time to bust out the sunscreen, pop on your favorite shades, and—yes!—take a few minutes to make sure you’re up on all the latest pool safety tips. It might seem like a downer to think about all the scary things that could happen when your little ones are in the water (drowning is the second leading cause of injury death in children ages 1-14, according to the CDC), but you’ll feel more confident and have a lot more fun at the pool when you know you’ve done everything possible to keep your children safe and happy during swim time.
Becky Simpson, Resident Camp Director and Program Manager at Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, shared these simple yet super important tips:
Get your swim on
Make sure all members of your family are comfortable in the water and know how to swim. Community centers and organizations across the country offer baby, toddler, and child swimming lessons. Start your kids off early, especially if you have a pool or they are often near the water during summer. That said, you have to know how to swim as well! If you never learned, sign up to take a class with your girl or ask about adult classes in your neighborhood.
Keep an eye out
When children are in the pool, at least one adult should always be present and actively watching (i.e. not chatting on the phone, checking social media, or reading a book). I know you might think your girl or any child in the pool would call for help if they found themselves in trouble, and that catching up on your favorite magazines poolside won’t hurt—but the truth is, when someone is drowning they’re usually fighting to breathe, let alone talk or yell. That’s why you need to be able to see the visual cues of trouble, which include paddling without making forward progress or bobbing up and down in place without moving forward or backward. When it comes to pool safety, the number one thing kids need is your undivided attention.
Lock it up
Ensure that any pool your children are near is surrounded by a tall (at least 4-foot) fence with a self-latching gate, and that your kids know they can only be in the pool area if an adult is present. Although it may seem like a nuisance to have to unlatch the gate every time you want to go in or out of the pool area (especially if your hands are full!) it’s a small sacrifice to make to ensure that your child and any other children present are kept out of harm’s way.
Don’t Bet on Inflatable Toys
Inflatable arm bands, sometimes called swimmies or water wings, are popular among parents whose children can’t swim or are just learning how to swim. Many people believe these and other inflatable water toys enable non-swimmers and weak swimmers to splash the day away without risk of drowning, but the truth is that these toys can offer a false sense of security. What if the seal around the air plug weakens, causing air to slowly leak out of the arm band or floatation ring? What if a hole is torn? When you’re looking for water safety equipment, do your research and make sure any and all safety-related floatation devices have been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Most of these are made of durable floatation foam and will last a long time. The inflatable stuff is fun (come on, who wouldn’t want to glide around the pool on a giant, inflatable pink donut?!) but shouldn’t be counted on to keep non-swimmers afloat!
Stay away from the drain
Show your children the drain in the pool you’re using and make sure they know to steer clear of it while swimming and splashing about. When hair, bathing suits, or bodies get pulled down and trapped by the powerful suction of a pool drain, the force can be so strong that even fully grown adults can’t manage to pull a child off the vent and save them from injury or drowning. Just in case of an accident, though, keep a pair of scissors poolside (but out of reach of small children!) that you could use to cut hair or clothing away from a drain. You’ll probably never need them, but knowing they’re there will give you an extra ounce of security—which we all know as parents is never a bad thing!