When our kids are playing in our home pool, I love watching them – it’s fun for me to try to understand where their imaginations are taking them. While I want them to have the freedom to do that, especially when they were young, I kept very cautious safety guidelines. Here are my top 5 safety rules for young kids at the pool:
1) Stay within arm’s reach. When my kids were really young, the rule was that I had to be holding them at all times. When they got a bit older, I would let them venture out just a bit. But as suggested by AmericanRedCross.org, even with young kids, it is best to stay within arm’s reach. That way I can quickly get to them if they get into trouble – sometimes just inhaling a big gulp of water is enough to send a small child into a panic, and I want to make sure the situation doesn’t escalate.
2) Life jackets for the young ones. I discovered that life jackets – and which ones are appropriate for a child – is a big topic. There are a number of choices, and the options vary – it’s really not about age, but the size of the child. Youngsters from 8 to 30 pounds will wear a jacket designated for infants, and 30 to 50 pounds, a child sized jacket. It is recommended that the children have U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets, and for small children, the device should have a padded head support, to keep the child’s head above water. It should also have a grab handle – to quickly retrieve the child from the water. Also – try the jacket on the child before getting in the water, so they can get familiar with the feel of it, and not panic when it’s introduced.
3) No swimming unsupervised. A small child might be tempted to get out of the house, and back to the fun of the water. We clearly tell our children that they are not to be at the pool when we aren’t there. But kids sometimes don’t think first, we all know that, so we installed a safety fence to ensure that there would be no unauthorized access. We put a gate with an alarm on that fence, which sounds both at the pool and inside the house if someone tries to use it when we’re not out there. While this might seem like a lot of security, according to Poolsafely.gov, drowning is one of the major causes of accidents which result in injury or death with children.
4) Always have someone watching. This is a rule for me as a parent. My husband Ed and I make sure we designate which of us is to watch the kids. When they were young, one of us was in the water and either holding that child, or very close. As they get a bit older, they can play on their own, but someone is still watching. Whichever parent is designated doesn’t do anything else – no popping into the kitchen to make a salad – they just watch the kids. If there’s an important phone call expected, and I know Ed will need to take it, if the phone rings, he signals me to take over watching the kids. This rule is one we take very seriously. It doesn’t take long at all for a child to get in trouble in the water.
5) Rules have consequences. We have clearly established with our children, the rules for being in the pool. The obvious ones are “no running” and “no swimming by yourself.” But when the youngest was still at the “needs to be held” or later “arm’s length” stage, there were a few attempts to push the boundaries of those rules, just as you would expect. We were going through those issues in a lot of areas, not just the pool. But the pool was a place for the kids to see how we operate – that a rule is for a reason, and disobeying it has a consequence. With pool play, the consequence really got their attention. When our youngest started running down the side of the pool one time, in spite of our verbal commands to stop, we took him inside. Boy, did he throw a fit. We made him sit inside for about 15 minutes, and he sure got the lesson.
Having clear rules about safety for our young children at the pool has given us the freedom to fully enjoy our family time in the water. It also gives me greater peace of mind, and I like that part.
Becky Flanigan writes for PoolCenter about pool cleaner parts and other topics. She has 3 kids with her wonderful husband – two boys and a girl – and two lovely golden retrievers. After studying things like life jackets for kids, she spends hours with her family at their home pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play. She is also an avid runner, and diligently training for her first half marathon.