We’ve been blessed with a good number of sunny, warm days this year, which means kids and families are back in the water. Swimming is great exercise and can be really fun. However, water can pose big dangers if kids are unprepared for it.
Swimming lessons are the best place to start when it comes to water safety. Babies as young as four months can take “waterbaby” classes with their parents to get more comfortable with being in the water. Swimming lessons are typically offered at public pools for a range of ages and abilities. Sometimes municipal parks and recreation departments offer vouchers for a series of free lessons. Giving kids this important life skill is one of the best things a parent can do for their child, especially in the Pacific Northwest where we are surrounded by water.
Another crucial element with water safety is having responsible supervision for kids around the water. Recently I learned of this excellent article from a retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer who explains that the signs of drowning can be hard to recognize, even at close range. As he explains, actual drowning doesn’t look like the drownings depicted on TV and in the movies. The actual signals of drowning in a child could look like they’re doing the dog paddle in place. A drowning person has difficulty calling for help, and their motions can be very small and subtle in the water. Parents or caregivers should not only be present when their kids are in the water, they should also be watching closely and should know what to look for if a child is in distress.
I also like to point out that even people who know how to swim well can become uncomfortable in the water at times. This is especially true of lake or other open-water swimming, which can be a wonderful experience on a hot day, but dangerous if the water is very choppy or murky. I advise families to do their lake or ocean swimming in areas with a lifeguard. Inexperienced swimmers should stay in designated areas that aren’t too deep for their age and ability. An adult should be in the water with inexperienced swimmers at all times. Even experienced swimmers should use care in the lake, ocean, or in rivers.
My children love to swim. My daughter is quite skilled. My son is in what I call the danger zone. He has lost his fear of the water, is over confident, and cannot “swim” which is why they both are taking another round of lessons this summer.
Here are more water safety tips from the Red Cross.