The passing of Bode Miller's 19-month-old daughter has been a harsh reminder of the dangers that come with the warmer weather. Pools become popular in the summer and every year young children wander to them with curiosity that can have devastating results. Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of four. It happens quickly and quietly, and it can happen to anyone. No parent should ever have to endure a loss as devastating as Miller's and his wife's but his celebrity brought media attention to the issue of water safety for toddlers and all children.
Any parent knows that infants, toddlers, and young children are fast and unpredictable. They're drawn to water and the only way to prevent a tragedy from happening is to take every precaution available because even when you do, it can still happen. These water safety education tips are meant to bring awareness to any parent looking for tips on keeping their little one safe this summer.
Put Your Child Swimming Lessons
One of the most important things you can do is enroll your child in swimming lessons. Start at a young age just to get them used to water. Some swim centers start baby/parent classes at six months old just for a little introduction. Make sure that any class you choose includes a safety section. They will teach your child what to do if they happen to fall into the water and how to float on their back. Swim lessons will also make them comfortable with the water and help them learn about the potential dangers of pools, hopefully keeping their curiosity at bay.
Invest In A Fence
The most common place for infants to drown is in a backyard pool. If you own a pool, in-ground or above ground, put a secure fence around it so your children can't even get in without an adult. The fence should be at least four feet tall and have self-closing doors and self-latching locks. If your pool is above ground, always take away the ladder and cover it completely when not in use. An extra added precaution would be to install a sensor light or bell to alert you when anybody gets close to the pool.
Empty All Standing Water
If you have a yard, pay attention to anything filled with water or that can hold water in case of rain. This includes kiddie pools, buckets, and other containers like trash cans. It may seem like a lot to do but there really aren't enough steps you can take to prevent an accident. You may also want to reconsider any water landscape in your yard like ponds. These pose the same dangers as pools. You'll need to put a fence around a pond or make it unreachable.
Have A Supervision Plan
Even if you don't have a pool, be extra cautious when you're around one. Lots of summer travel plans and activities involve water and swimming whether it's at the lake, beach, or pool, so it's important to put a supervision plan into place. Plan with other adults who might be tagging along so everyone is aware of how and when to watch the kids when they're swimming. Take turns keeping an eye on the water and always have a non-distracted watcher. If every person takes a 30-minute shift, it won't seem like you're missing anything as an adult. If you happen to be visiting a home with a pool and no fence, and you don't plan on going in, ask if you can lock the doors to the house to keep your kiddo inside, and make sure that other adults aware too. You can never have too many eyes helping.
Remember to Use Layers of Protection
A good plan of action around water is to have many layers of protection. The parent, or another adult caregiver, is the first and best protective layer for young kids. Swim with them and always be within arm's length of the child. If they're a little bit older, never take your eyes off of them. No distraction is best, so no phone and no reading. If you have a non-swimmer, always have your child wear some sort of safety device like a puddle jumper, tube, vest, or water wings. This is the second layer or protection. The third layer of protection is another set of eyes. When possible, always swim where there is a lifeguard on duty. Having all three of these will increase the likelihood of having a fun and safe swim!
Don't Drink Alcohol
Yes, we know that summer is a time for margaritas, sangria, and so many other delicious adult beverages, but keep them sans booze until all the swimming is done. Alcohol can impair your judgment and could cause you to get distracted in a pivotal moment. It can even affect how you swim and your abilities to get to a child if there is a safety issue. Drinking and swimming simply don't mix. You want to be completely sober when watching your kids.
Prioritize Teaching Pool Rules
From a young age, start teaching your children the rules of the pool. This means no running, no diving, and to never go swimming without an adult present. Older kids can be taught the buddy system so they never swim alone either. Young toddlers and some kids will always be prone to wandering off, but if you explain the rules and the consequences, they'll be more likely to keep that in mind. Go over the rules as often as you can. Make it fun but also emphasize the importance of following these rules.
If the unthinkable happens, you want to be prepared and be able to perform CPR on your child. Early intervention is key to survival and any time it takes waiting for help can be detrimental. Take a CPR certification class to learn the latest technology and how to perform the life-saving maneuver. Have other caregivers earn certification too. These are usually offered every few weeks at local rec centers or pools. Make sure to always have emergency numbers handy and your phone nearby at the pool, (as long as you're not on it) in case you need to call for help.
We hope that this list of pool tips can help you keep your little one as safe as possible this summer. Happy safe swimming!