The 5 Water Safety Tips That Will Help Your Kid's Summer Stay FUN

Jeanne Sager | May 19, 2012 Big Kid

toddler at the beach

I used to love summer. Hot sun. Barbecues. Fresh-cut grass. And then I became a mother, and thus totally terrified of the water.

Go ahead. Call me neurotic. But when you consider the CDC says drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children 1 to 4 years old, the closer we get to summer, the more panicked I get about all those pool parties and river outing invites. So when I found out May is National Water Safety Month, I knew I had two choices.

I could rejoice in the fact that I'm not the only neurotic mom out there -- it's a national THING. Or I could do something about it. Lucky for you, I went for number two. I decided to help all those neurotic moms out there actually feel good about their kids and water this month.

Behold! I talked to some real life water safety experts about what the heck it is we always do wrong ... and how to actually get the kids water-ready! Go get the sunscreen, it's time to actually have a decent summer! Oh wait, but read the tips first ... there are a few that might surprise you.

What terrifies you most during the summer months with your kids?


Image via anathea/Flickr

  • Lifeguards Aren't Babysitters


    Image via terren in Virginia/Flickr


    Just because there is a lifeguard on duty doesn't mean you can opt out on watching your child in the water. A lifeguard is charged with maintaining safety for everyone in the water, but they're just one person (or two at some pools).

    If you're in the water with your child, or at least at the edge watching, you: A. don't have to wait for a lifeguard to get to your child if there's trouble and B. free up the lifeguard to dive in when someone else is in trouble.

  • Don't Confuse Wearing Swimmies With Knowing How to Swim


    Image by Jeanne Sager


    The introduction of swimmies, or floaties, as some people call them, has given a lot of children more confidence in the water. The problem says long-time certified lifeguard and swim instructor Megan Reichmann, is parents assume that means their kids are now "safe" in the water.

    Reichmann says 9 times out of 10 kids with swimmies on their arms would end up in the deep end of the pool and start screaming because they didn't actually have the ability to use their legs and kick their way back to the shallow end. Swimmies are not a replacement for a life preserver, she says, or more importantly, for having an adult right there to watch a child.

  • Designate a Water Watcher


    Image via VeniMarkovski/Flickr


    I really dig this idea from the folks at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Instead of every parent standing at a party watching their kids and skipping out on the fun, they suggest designating a "Water Watcher" parent (or other adult of course) who specifically keeps an eye on the kids. It's like the designated driver concept -- it allows other people to have fun while keeping everyone safe.

  • Swim Early, Swim Often


    Image via Randy Pertiet/Flickr


    The earlier a kid gets acclimated to the water, the more often they get to practice, the BETTER they get at swimming, says certified Lifeguard Megan Reichmann. The American Red Cross recommends you start with a child as young as 6 months old, and offers swimming instruction from that age up. Check out the ARC in your area for a class sign-up, or investigate the local community center, YMCA, or gym to see what options are out there.

    Be aware that knowing how to swim DOES NOT mean a child can be left alone, but it is a way to arm them against danger.

  • Get Close. REALLY Close


    Image via ctd2005/Flickr


    It doesn't matter if your kid can swim. If they're 4 or under, the National Drowning Prevention Association says you should be no less than an arm's length away. In other words? Get IN the water. 

    And since you're there? Make it FUN says Water Safety Instructor Tracey Lee!

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