In these hot Texas summers, being at the pool is blessed relief for many families. But before hitting the water, make sure you have followed these simple steps for summer swim safety for your kids.
Step 1 – Make your pool environement safe.
Mimi Conner, owner of Aqua~Fit Swim & Wellness Center in Plano, suggests the following checklist of safety precautions for the pool you own (or are visiting):
- Fence around pool, with self closing/latching gates to pool area
- Alarms on all household doors that lead to pool area
- Floating alarms in pools that activate when water is disturbed
- Anti-vortex drain covers
- A reaching rescue pole nearby
- Phone outside with laminated card including home address and major street names in case of a 911 emergency call
- Storage for all recreational toys to be put away out of sight (and out of temptation) when pool-time is over
- Storage for pool chemicals away from pool area (and out of children’s reach)
Step 2 – Make sure an adult is supervising children at all times.
Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom” and owner of www.safetymom.com, believes that: “The highest priority in water safety is constant parental supervision. Drowning can occur in fewer than 5 minutes, the time it takes to answer the phone or check on another child. If you need to leave, assign another adult to watch your child. Never assume someone else is watching her!”. You can read other water safety tips from the Safety Mom in her article “Summer Water Safety for Kids.”
Step 3 – Engage your children in formal swim lessons.
Some of us (like me) wonder just when you should start your child swimming. Is it worth having your child in swim lessons from a young age, or should you wait? According to Paige Bedow, owner of Paige’s Swim School in Plano, starting an infant at around 4 months old is the best time for two reasons. “Getting your very young baby back into the water early will help her retain her natural instinct to hold her breath in water, which is harder to re-learn later. Also, she is very comfortable right now laying horizontally on her back and won’t have the automatic urge when she is in the water to be upright, which can hinder progress in formal swim lessons later.”
Regarding swim lessons in those under age 4, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has avoided making any formal recommendations on swim lessons for this age group because of lack of data to suggest they work. Historically, their general position has been that infant swimming programs may actually be dangerous in that they could give parents a false sense of security on their children’s abilities in the water (see their infant swimming article). However, a study released in March 2009 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that formal swim lessons for ages 1-4 yrs did not increase drowning risk, and further may have a protective effect. In the study, children who’d received swim lessons had significantly less risk of drowning than those who had not. (See the NICHD study results here.) Some believe that as a result of this new study, the AAP will change their guidelines to encourage swim lessons in children between ages 1 – 4 yrs.
While the current AAP guideline says children below age 4 are not developmentally ready to take formal swimming lessons, they endorse parent/child programs until children are ready for the formal instruction. Then, they recommend, “once your child is ready (generally after his fourth birthday) he should be taught to swim.”
The AAP cautions parents to not assume that children are safe in the water, just because they may have had swim lessons. They stress that an adult should remain in arm’s reach of children under 5 years old in the water at all times, even if they have had swimming lessons. They further advice not using air-filled “swimming aides” as a substitute for approved life vests. You may read more of their Pool Tips here.
Step 4: Protect your kids from the sun
Finally, before you hit the water, make sure you have your children (and yourself) protected from the sun. Most children accumulate 50-80% of their entire lifetime’s exposure to the sun before age 18, so it’s important to protect them and teach them now about sun safety. The best guideline is to stay in the shade, and if in the sun, avoid the strongest rays of the day (generally between 10am-4pm). For most of us with kids, avoiding direct sunlight during these hours is impossible, so it is critical to protect their skin.
- Sunscreen, liberally applied 30 minutes before you go out in the sun and re-applied frequently, is a must. MomsOutLoud.com reviewed some best-selling sunscreen products recently (see our article: The Best Sunscreens for Your Family).
- UV-blocking swimwear should be used in young children in addition to sunscreen. While once in limited distribution, these swim clothes are now widely available in all major retailers.
- Sunglasses are the best way to protect the eyes. Even 1 day in the sun can burn corneas, which can lead to cataracts later in life if exposure is strong. So start kids now with sunglasses; even though they may not like them at first, if you wear yours and are diligent about it, they’ll accept them soon enough.
- Shaded breaks are necessary. While playing in the sun will be a reality for all of our kids, make sure they have a shaded place to take breaks. An umbrella, shady cover, or some other structure that will give them sun protection is an important tool in your overall sun protection plan.
For more information on sun safety in kids and precautions you c
an take, see www.kidshealth.org.
Here’s to wet, splashy fun with your kids this summer! Enjoy!
Written by Rebekah Cooksey, Founder and Chief Executive Mom of MomsOutLoud.com. She lives in Plano, TX with her husband and their three kids, aged 3.5 yrs – 8 weeks. She is wishing she had octopus arms for when the kids want to go to the pool, but happily settles for another adult to keep within arms reach of the kids as well.
Thanks to Rachel Logan Photography for the (magic!) photo.