I saw the little guy. Mom came into the pool with 4 kids, carrying the baby, all the pool stuff, snacks, drinks, looking around for an empty chair. Probably reminding herself to put sunscreen on the kids. Meanwhile, the little guy (maybe 4 or 5 years old) walked calmly to the edge of the deep end. And jumped.
He popped up and struggled to keep his face up, panic on his face as he realized he couldn’t touch the bottom. Thankfully, someone else also saw him…the lifeguard. She gracefully dove in and scooped him up. Mom didn’t even know he was in the water – it all happened so fast.
Water is so much fun, yet it can be dangerous. My kids have grown up at our community pool and are practically fish. Two of them are now lifeguards and one is a swim coach/instructor, so water safety is a very frequent topic at my house. Children are more vulnerable around water when it is a NEW experience, which often happens on vacations. So while you book that hotel or rental home with a pool, also read these tips that might help you have a safe and relaxing vacation!
- Walk in and immediately look for lifesaving equipment. There should be a hook and a ring. There should also be a poolside phone or have your phone handy.
- Note the water depths. Point out to your child – “This is where you can touch, this is where you cannot.” Many pools even have a line painted on the floor of the pool to denote depth changes – point it out to your child.
- The most dangerous spots in a resort-type pool are waterfalls, pool drains, pipes, and other openings. Locate them and tell your child to avoid them. Don’t make it scary – just stay away from it.
- There HAS to be a fence that isolates the pool. Make sure it is secure. We just got back from a rental that had a fence that my 4-yr-old nephew could open with ease. *sigh*
- Don’t leave chairs or other items of furniture where a child could use them to climb into a fenced pool area.
- No toys in the pool when you aren’t in it – they are too tempting for a child to reach for.
- Consider a motion alarm for the exit to the pool area. Most rental homes with pools with have them – be sure to ask!
- Keep the littles out of the hot tub! The Red Cross recommends no children under age 5; their small bodies overheat much quicker than ours. Older children should limit time to 5-10 minutes, and probably should not have the bubbles on.
- A free-standing hot tub should have a cover and a lock.
- Make sure that drains have covers (there are many stories of long hair getting caught!).
- A person MUST be in the water with them within arm’s reach at all times. There simply is no substitute.
- Floaties, noodles, and rings are NOT life-saving floatation devices.
TEACH YOUR LITTLE ONES THESE THREE THINGS:
- Hold your breath when you go under.
“Puff out your checks and make a bubble in your mouth. [demonstrate] Great! Now let’s do it and go under – 1-2-3-BUBBLE!” [go under together super quickly]
- Reach and kick for the wall (the side of the pool).
When you are playing in the water with “kick to me!” also be sure you teach “kick to the wall!” Have the child learn to jump in, you catch and turn them to the wall and help them kick toward it. Celebrate when they can jump in and turn to the wall without your touch. Have races to the wall. Make it sooo commonplace and repeat it so often that it becomes almost an instinct. The wall the wall the wall.
Once your child is holding on to the side of the pool, have them “wall walk” – hand over hand move down the wall toward the steps or ladder. Put a snack or toy over there if they need motivation.
A very young child can learn those three things. Put them together and your child can go under, get to the wall, and wall walk to a ladder.
- Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
- Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision. Consider a babysitter who is lifeguard certified if water is present.
- Appoint a “designated watcher” to monitor swimmers during social gatherings at or near pools. Even experienced little swimmers can get tired or get in trouble.
- Don’t think you’ll HEAR a child who’s in trouble in the water!! It takes EYES. They don’t splash and say “Help, I’m drowning!” If a child is struggling to keep his/her face up, gasping, or has glassy or half-closed eyes, scoop them up!
DON’T BE SCARY!
Through all of this, try NOT to make things sound scary. You don’t want a child who is afraid of the water, as that will complicate learning to swim. At our last vacation rental, I watched my swim-instructor son skillfully play with his little nephew, effortlessly scooping him up from deeper water and whisking him back to the steps as part of the pirate ninja game they were playing. “Arg, watch yer step on the plank, matie!”
And pirate ninja mommas will have a more fun and relaxing vacation with the peace of mind that comes from being safe and prepared.
Do you have a vacation water safety tip or story to share?
Hi I’m Lori, I’m a volunteeraholic with three sons, a husband, a fulltime job, and a cat who is usually trying to kill me. One of those volunteer gigs is at Gulf Park Pool, where two of my sons are lifeguards. I am the coordinator of the Gulf Park Blue Sharks summer swim team and the Shark School learn-to-swim program. If I had a magic wand, I would make sure all children learn to swim! And I’d have a few million dollars. And I’d be Batman.