I wrote about water safety two years ago when we moved to a house on the lake. And though my stance on water safety hasn’t changed three summers later, I’ve heard more and more stories of water accidents the past few years.
As a mom, water accidents are truly one of my worst nightmares. Even my six year old had a nightmare recently about his (yet unborn) baby brother drowning and him jumping in to save the baby.
At any rate, I thought it was worth revisiting the topic of water safety to offer tips to parents. Because when it’s a child’s life at stake, there’s no such thing as too many reminders.
8 Water Safety Tips for Parents
1. Never multitask near water.
This tip seems so obvious, but I think it’s the one thing that get us parents in trouble the most when it comes to our children’s safety. Distraction as a parent is dangerous near water. Don’t read books or magazines, send long texts on your phone, prep lunches, take a bathroom break, etc. unless you appoint another adult to watch your children. And just remember, no one knows your children’s tendencies as much as you do or will watch your children as well as you do.
2. Use only coastguard-approved flotation devices on a boat.
Puddle jumpers are coastguard-approved and have made parent life so much easier since they are inexpensive and readily available. One great benefit of puddle jumpers is that they don’t tend to ride up to a child’s chin the way life jackets can. But, if your child is one who tends to defy the rules, I would caution against a puddle jumper. They are much easier and quicker for a child to wrangle out of than a child life jacket, which often has a leg strap to better keep the life jacket in place. Though I have not personally tested them, some stores now carry puddle jumpers with shoulder straps, which could be a great option for a wiggly child.
3. Make kids put on flotation devices before walking to the lake, pool, beach, etc.
This rule is especially crucial if you have multiple kids since it’s impossible to hold that many little hands as you are carrying towels, bags, coolers, etc. Even if your kids run ahead of you into the water, you will be at ease knowing they are safe in their flotation device.
4. Enroll your child in swimming lessons, but don’t trust that they are independent swimmers.
My 6 year old spent three months on a swim team this spring, but he’s not even close to being an independent swimmer. Though he is able to swim without a flotation device in a pool, I am adamant that he wear one in the lake where the water is dark and deep as well as the ocean, which has undercurrents. But even when he is pool swimming, it’s crucial that he is carefully watched. Kids his age tend to push themselves so hard swimming that they unknowingly become exhausted and it’s hard for them to catch their breath.
5. If you see your child getting winded while swimming, mandate a break from the water.
Following up on tip No. 4, if I see my boys swimming with prolonged heavy breathing, regardless of whether they are in a puddle jumper, I make them sit out of the pool for five minutes to catch their breath. Large pools with lifeguards do these breaks well, instituting adult-only swims 10-15 minutes every hour. Though my kids hate these breaks, it requires them to rest out of the water.
6. Don’t rely only on the lifeguard.
As I mentioned earlier, no one will watch your child as well as you do—even if that is what they are paid to do. Lifeguards, especially those at larger pools, could be keeping an eye on dozens of kids at one time, scanning back and forth across the pool. If your child is ever in trouble in the water and you are watching him, chances are you will pick up on it twice as fast as the lifeguard.
7. Ensure an adult is within reach of every child on a boat and enforce that kids sit on their bottoms.
More than anything, my rowdy boys love to sit at the front of the boat and wait for a bounce when we hit a large wake. We always make sure an adult is sitting within arm’s reach of them and require the kids to sit on their bottoms. This ensure they stay in the boat if we happen to hit a large wake.
8. Remind your kids of your water safety rules every time you go near water.
Every time you go near water, get your kids to audibly confirm that they understand what’s expected of them. Whatever your most important rules—Puddle jumper always on, always an adult with them, no running/horseplaying, stay closeby at beach, etc.—it never hurts to repeat them to remind your kids.
Do you have any other water safety tips for parents?
Older Post from 2016: