Summer weather is upon us and parents and kids alike are chomping at the bit to get out the goggles and cannonball into the swimming pool. But with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, more families are opting for a backyard, above ground swimming pool or wading pool.
Swimming and water play bring endless joy to kids and is a great source of exercise. However, when you have a body of water in your backyard, even if it’s only 1 foot deep, you need to be extra mindful of your children when they are swimming or playing near the pool. Here are some tips for keeping your kids safe this summer around the water.
Wise to Water Safety
First, the scary part: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-4. Even just 1 inch of water is enough to drown an infant or toddler. Now, the good news: With precautions in place and your eagle eye while on lifeguard duty, you and your kiddos can have a splashing good time this summer.
If you have a backyard pool or wading pool, there are some precautions you may want to consider before diving in:
- Set some rules: Talk to your children about the “rules of the pool,” such as “no one in the pool unless a parent is outside with you,” “no climbing on the ladder,” “a grownup must always be present when you play in the backyard,” “never swim alone,” and “no horseplay.”
- Designate a “Water Watcher.” When family and friends are over for a summer BBQ, it’s easy to assume that someone—Grandpa? Mom? Aunt Maggie?—has their eyes on the children. However, more adults present doesn’t always equal better supervision. Designate a person to stay with the kids while they play in or near the water. Rotate out the job, just like lifeguards do.
- Install fencing around your pool so the kids can’t climb in when you are not with them. The AAP recommends that backyard swimming pools, (including large, inflatable above-ground pools), be surrounded with a fence at least 54 inches high with a self-closing latch.
- Motion sensors and alarms are also available for purchase that alert you to when a child has jumped or fallen in the pool. Even motion sensor lights provide some protection at night.
- Before your child gets in the pool, bring everything you will need with you including a towel, change of clothes, snacks, water, and sunscreen. In the seconds it takes to run inside and grab a towel, drowning can happen.
- Be honest with your kids about the dangers of swimming pools. Talk about it and work through how your children can be safe in and around the pool.
In the Pool
One of the most important rules of water safety is constant, vigilant supervision. If you have a backyard swimming pool, you will need to be near your kids while they swim—that means eyes up, book and phone down. The AAP recommends using “touch supervision” while kids are in the water, meaning that you stay within arms reach of your young child or non-swimmer when they are in or around water.
Water wings or floating toys do not prevent your child from drowning, and even may make them more daring by providing a false sense of security. A proper flotation could include the use of personal flotation devices or lifejackets while in the pool.
According to the USA Swimming Foundation, one month of formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning in children by 88%. If possible, sign your child up for swim lessons to learn the basics of swimming, including rolling from front to back and floating. In addition, consider getting your CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification. American Red Cross, Oregon CPR, Lane County CPR, and CPR & First Aid Training Center offer classes regularly in adult and pediatric CPR and First Aid. Contact your preferred center to schedule a class.
Here’s to a safe and splashing good summer!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).