Tips For Keeping Kids Safe in the Water
Swim safety is typically a hot topic in summer, and for good reason. However, the colder months also present an amazing opportunity for your kids to master the swimming skills they need to enjoy the pool days ahead.
Like any skill, consistent practice is key to competence and confidence. For kids under the age of four, reinforcing the basics is essential for refreshing their muscle memory, especially if it’s been months since their last swim.
For pro tips on keeping kids safe in the water and encouraging life-saving skills, CA Aquatics Program Director Dylan Reyes provided some need-to-know info for parents. Check out his tips below!
Recognize The Various Water Hazards that Exist
Pools and the ocean aren’t the only bodies of water that present a risk to children. Most of us have heard over and over again that little ones can drown in less than two inches of water, but it’s a message that’s worth repeating. Water safety is just as important when it comes to bathtubs, ponds, water-filled ditches or containers of water. When it comes to the bathtub, no bath seat or product can replace adult supervision.
Let Them Ease Into It
It’s natural for kids to be a little wary to get in the water. Reyes shared that CA Swim instructors start by having kids sit on the edge of the pool and splash around a little bit. Many kids just need some extra time to warm up and feel confident. Gradual immersion is key.
“There’s nothing wrong with letting them get used to the water by first dipping their toes in, then going in up to their knees and so on. Once they get in, we see their confidence build in just a 15 minute class,” said Reyes. “Kids go from barely wanting their feet wet to happily jumping in the pool with an instructor.”
Every Kid Develops At Their Own Pace
While some kids love the water from the start, some don’t. The important thing is not to shame them and to let them go at their own pace. Kids will pick up on your anxiety and impatience, which compounds the stress associated with getting in the water.
“Throwing a child in a pool or rushing them can be traumatic, which will only make their fear worse,” said Reyes. “If you try to force it, more often than not it creates a fear aspect which is only going to slow them down.”
Be Playful & Relaxed
So, how can you increase your child’s comfort level in the water? Make it playful and fun! Start by having fun in the bathtub: blowing bubbles, bringing toys in, running the water over their head. Get creative as you need to — depending on your child’s interests, perhaps telling them stories about mermaids, friendly fish or dolphins will do the trick. Maybe it’s watching the Discovery Channel and seeing amazing creatures or inspiring deep sea divers.
When it’s pool time, perhaps enlist floaties or water wings with their favorite character on them. Then, explain the games that await once they get in, like Marco Polo and Sharks and Minnows.
“We want them to have fun,” said Reyes. “That’s the biggest factor that’s going to help keep them safe.”
Always Have a Designated “Water Watcher”
Even if there’s lots of adults around, there needs to be a designated “water watcher.” In fact, this is even more important when there’s various adults around, because it’s all too easy for everyone to assume that someone else is supervising. Take 30-minute turns, with breaks in between to hydrate and rest. Kids may not recognize just how tired they are, so breaks are also an opportunity for them to take an important breather.
When you’re in the water with little ones, always have them within an arm’s reach, even if they can swim. Research shows that most drownings occur within six to 10 feet of safety. Staying by your child’s side ensures you can scoop them up safely if they start to tire out.
Teach Them the Chipmunk Face
Encouraging your child to dip underwater can be a challenge, but the key is to stay relaxed and calm. Again, start their comfort in the bathtub; have them put one ear in, then the next and then teach them to blow bubbles. When they’re ready to take the next step, the chipmunk face can teach them how to exhale properly.
“Have them puff out their cheeks to help keep the water out of their nose,” said Reyes. “The bathtub is a great place to have them look up from underneath the water and keep their cheeks expanded while slowly exhaling.”
If you’re in the pool, another great tip is to wear goggles yourself and show your child how you put your face underwater.
Hold a Safety Briefing
For older kids that know how to swim, the excitement of arrival at the pool (or waterpark, beach, etc.) can make them antsy to jump right in. However, it’s important to set an expectation that doing so isn’t acceptable. Always have a quick meeting with the kids first to talk about what’s okay and what isn’t.
As drowning investigator Natalie Livingston shares, “Some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but I know rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety.”
Encourage your kids to add their insights to this briefing, too. What do they think the rules should be? Do they understand the depth of the water and how that relates to their height? What potential hazards do they see in the environment?
Swim Lessons at CA
At CA, we currently offer swim lessons for children ages three and up. Getting your child started now is the perfect way to help them feel strong and confident at the first sign of summer, and to set them up for a lifetime love of the water. Check out our website to learn more.
And, to learn more about the benefits of raising strong swimmers, check out our CA Swim blog!