18 Water Safety Tips You Need to Know
18 Water Safety Tips You Need to Know
Hello, tribe! It’s May, and that means it’s National Water Safety Month. As we head into the warmer months, we’re trading our winter coats for swimsuits! Whether it’s a lake, river, ocean, or your local pool, pretty much all of us with little wildlings will end up in the water this summer.
Though this season of H20 fun is a total blast, it’s also the season where we see an understandable but concerning uptick in drownings. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4. And, children with autism are 160 times more at risk. Wow! These statistics are totally heartbreaking.
Many of these incidents are totally preventable. Lack of water education and a false sense of security are two of the main reasons these events occur. So, we want to help educate all you amazing parents out there on some little-known water safety tips! Check it out below.
18 Water Safety Tips You Need to Know
Summer water safety should be at the top of your list of priorities this season. Whether you’re spending every day in your backyard pool or taking a vacation to the ocean, bodies of water pose a big risk to children and teens. But, how? And what can you do about it? Here are 18 quick water safety tips you need to know:
Your wildlings should start lessons earlier than you think.
First of all, ditch your preconceived notions about swimming lessons. The classic model of large group sessions that run for just a few weeks in the summer is not the best way to teach water safety.
Students should be learning to swim before summer in small group, year-round swimming lessons. Additionally, many parents don’t start their kids in lessons until about three or four. Guys, all this is so backwards! After all, children who drown are usually under the age of four. So, teaching them water safety before this critical age is vital.
Did you know that your little wildling can start learning basic water safety techniques at four months old? That’s right! In fact, babies have lots of natural swimming skills like instinctive breath control and kicking reflexes—not to mention their high body fat ratio makes them great floaters!
Starting your little wildlings in infant safety swim classes will help reinforce those natural aquatic tendencies and prevent those vital skills from fading after a year. Additionally, your baby wildling will get used to the sensation of experiencing no air, which will make them less prone to panic in emergency events. And, of course, starting your children young will cultivate a love and respect for the water from the beginning!
If you’ve already missed the cut-off for infant swimming lessons, don’t stress. Just get your kids started as soon as possible. Usually the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to train their muscles and breathing for aquatic situations. In the end, the sooner the better when it comes to swimming lessons!
You can find great lessons for infants and young children through the Red Cross and dedicated swim schools like Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.
No blowing bubbles.
Here’s a tip you’ve probably never heard. If your little wildling can’t yet roll themselves over onto their back independently, do not teach them to blow bubbles underwater. This might sound silly, but holding your air is a critical water safety and survival technique that can be compromised if children exhale when their face enters the water.
So, teach them to hold their air when underwater instead. And, if your child starts blowing bubbles in the bathtub and pool themselves? Ignore it. Simply do not engage in it. This way, it will likely not become a conditioned response to entering the water. You want your little wildling to hold their air and increase their survival time in an emergency situation.
Look for key techniques to determine if you really have a safe swimmer.
You might think your child knows how to swim. But, do they really? Knowing how to swim isn’t simply “not drowning” when you go to the pool. Not at all! Knowing how to swim means you can efficiently maintain your breathing and swim safely in a variety of situations.
Your little wildling might be at risk if any of these characteristics sound familiar:
- They swim with their eyes out of the water.
- They cannot rollover and float or side-breathe.
- They cannot swim without goggles, nose plugs, and/or ear plugs.
- They cannot exhale underwater and quickly recover an inhale upon surfacing.
- They’re arms and legs rise very high out of the water when swimming.
- They often need your help to get to the wall after they get too tired.
- They swim by bouncing along the wall.
- They often come up coughing or rubbing their eyes.
If any of these sound familiar, your little wildling is likely not an independent swimmer and needs more lessons. Don’t take the risk. Have confidence your kiddo is a great swimmer by getting them into lessons.
Set firm boundaries.
In order for your little wildlings to understand the dangers of water, you’ve got to set firm boundaries. Just like you never let your kids ride in the car unbuckled or play with knives while they help you cook, you shouldn’t let your wildlings take unnecessary risks around bodies of water.
Accidents happen all the time, so the rules around the pool or other bodies of water should be firm and punishable if not followed. Your little wildlings should not be allowed anywhere near water if they’re not swimming and supervised. No putting their feet in. No playing around the water, but not going in. Most of all, never allow your non-swimming child in a pool and say, “just stay where you can touch.”
And, for one more great tip. Create some phrase you say every time your child gets in the water. Use it from a young age, so they’re conditioned to know that they can’t enter without hearing an adult say those words.
Think about it like crossing the street. We ingrain in your wildlings that they can’t cross unless they’re holding our hand and look both ways. In the same way, we shouldn’t let children jump into a pool without hearing something like, “Ready, set, go.”
Swimming lessons are not an activity or extracurricular.
We’ve talked a lot about lessons so far, and we’ll talk about it some more. Because, putting a child in consistent, formal lessons reduces the risk of drowning by a crazy 88%. That’s amazing! This makes swimming lessons not a for-fun activity, but a vital life skill.
We say this, because swimming lessons might be tough. Your child might cry. They might get scared. They might just really hate it. But, you’ve got to do it anyway. Just like you wouldn’t let your wildling not sit in their car seat if they were throwing a tantrum, they must go to swimming lessons. Period.
Understand that not all “safety devices” are really safe.
A water safety device is also known as a “floaty” or “life jacket.” Good water safety devices give us peace of mind and protect our children in an emergency. Especially if they’re not quite independent swimmers. But, not all these devices are created equal. Some do more harm than good!
First of all, confirm your life jacket or device is Coast Guard approved. Second, ensure the device you’ve chosen puts your little wildling’s center of buoyancy at their stomach. This means your child can lean forward and their feet go behind them (or vice versa) for horizontal swimming. We emphasize this, because if your jacket allows your child to swim normally, they’ll continue to develop swim safety skills and good aquatic muscle memory.
The worst devices you can choose are floaties that put buoyancy on the arms or hips. It might seem like a great idea, but the techniques a child learns while using those devices are catastrophic.
Your little wildling will believe sitting upright or raising their arms is the best way to float and swim. Additionally, they’ll develop a bicycle kick and poor head and body movement association. So, if your kiddo falls in without their arm floaties, all their acquired swimming techniques will actually reduce their chances of survival.
Yes, this means the ever-popular puddle jumper safety device is NOT safe. In fact, swim academies and drowning prevention organizations unanimously agree that these devices should be off the market (and definitely not Coast Guard approved). Instead, find a good vest that helps your child float and swim naturally.
If at all possible, your child should not wear goggles or plugs.
Floaties aren’t the only water safety products out there. We’ve also got goggles, ear plugs, nose plugs, and more! Unless medically necessary, all these devices should be avoided. If you’re little wildlings can only swim while using one of these tools, they don't really know how to swim.
Tribe, a whopping 69% of child drownings occur when the child is not supposed to be in the water. So, they’re not going to have these devices on anyway. They might not even have their swimsuit on! Because of this, ditch any item that could be a swimming crutch until your child is a completely independent swimmer.
Practice emergencies in a fun way.
As we just discussed, any conditional swimmer is not really a swimmer. When emergencies happen, it won’t be an ideal situation. The water might be cold, they might have their street clothes and shoes on, and they’ll definitely be without goggles and plugs.
You don’t want your little wildlings to panic in these situations. And, the best way to prevent panic is to prepare them for the worst case scenario. Have all your kids practice swimming to safety as they jump into a frigid pool in their street clothes. Do it together as a family “polar plunge.” Make it a fun and memorable event!
In warmer temperatures, you can grab a mat or inner tube and tell your children at some point you’ll dump them out of it. Once they fall in, it’ll be a race to the edge of the pool. Push them around for a while and then unexpectedly flip them over and watch your little wildlings safely scramble to the wall.
Ultimately, to be safe swimming, your children must know how to respond when thrown into the water in unexpected circumstances. Make it a game now, and later they’ll be totally prepared for whatever life brings.
If you don’t know how to swim your family is at risk.
We’ve discussed your little wildlings a lot. But, what about you? Can you swim? . . . Are you sure? Head back to the top of this list and read over the warning signs of someone not really knowing how to swim. If those sound like you, you need lessons! Your family can’t be totally safe without your personal water safety.
Water safety for adults differs from water safety for kids. So, if you’ve not done a stroke or floated on your back since you were a child, try it out! You might be surprised to find you can no longer do it. If you can’t, find some personal survival swimming classes in your area and freshen up.
Avoid life preservers and floaties when you can.
Of course, there are situations when swimming with a life jacket is necessary for safety. Especially when you’re swimming in a body of water where you cannot see the bottom like a lake or river.
But, when you’re in controlled situations where you’re in the water with your children, try to go without the floaties. This way, your kiddos can practice independent swimming skills, develop good muscle memory, and recognize their own abilities. It’s really important for a child to understand whether they can or cannot swim. So, when you can safely go without, take that life jacket off.
Water safety training continues in the home.
There are drowning risks in the home even if you don’t have a pool (but especially if you do). Filled buckets, toilets, fountains, and pretty much anything that holds water can be a risk. It only takes 2 inches of water to drown!
So, at home, don’t leave any standing water and lock those toilet lids shut. Additionally, reinforce water safety techniques all the time. Remind children of their cue phrase for entering a body of water, and even apply the same boundaries you would in a pool to a bathtub! Creating a consistent water safety environment will mean safer little wildlings in the long run.
Not all diapers and clothing are safe for the water.
This is a big one for us! You might know you can’t use a standard disposable diaper in a pool because the insides will explode. But, too many believe that since that isn’t a problem with cloth diapers, any diaper cover will do. WRONG!
Ever wonder why swimming pools say you can’t wear street clothes? It’s because they’re a huge drowning risk. Regular clothes retain water and weigh you down. Now, think about your diapers. Their entire purpose is to retain liquid. You do not want one of these on your little wildlings. (Even if you’re planning to hold them the whole time.)
And, we know your next question. “But, what if I take out the inserts?” The answer is still a big big NO. Don’t forget that the cover is still waterproof, so liquid will get trapped inside and ruin your child’s sense of buoyancy and put them at unnecessary risk of drowning. Always grab a dedicated swim diaper like the Happy Nappy from Splash About!
Bonus tip: This means swim diapers DO NOT retain pee. At all. So, if you’re headed to the pool and already put that swim diaper on, put a pocket diaper over top of it until you’re ready to get in the water. This will save your car seat or your lap from getting soaked in urine. (Not a good way to start a fun afternoon of activities).
Be mindful of your little wildling’s swimsuit color.
Have you ever life guarded? If you haven’t, you might not realize how difficult it is to see things under the surface of even crystal clear chlorinated water. Everything from sun glare to the pool floor color can really affect your ability to see underwater.
And, if you consider a natural body of water like a lake, river, or ocean, clarity is a hundred times worse! Because of this, always make sure your children are in bright colored swimsuits that are not blue or green. The best colors are bright and fluorescent pinks, yellows, and oranges!
Drowning doesn’t look and sound like you think it does.
When you picture drowning, the images you see are probably from movies and TV. The truth is, the depictions in the media of drowning are flat out wrong. When people are drowning, they’re is usually no sound, because the individual isn’t able to surface. Usually, their arms are up too, which pushes them down and prevents any splashing.
Tribe, drowning is SILENT. So, don’t get a false sense of security that you’d hear your little wildling if they were struggling. When it comes to water, the quiet is deadly. And it’s the main reason so many incidents go unnoticed in busy pools.
Don’t depend on lifeguards and swim instructors to keep your child safe.
Again, drowning is silent and difficult to detect. Especially in certain busy conditions. To maintain good pool water safety, YOU must be vigilantly watching your kids. A life guard’s eyes can’t be everywhere at once.
And, let’s not forget that these might be 15-year-olds just looking to get a summer tan. Even if they have the best intentions, don’t depend on them for your child’s safety. And definitely don’t send your non-swimmer to a pool without being present.
Be aware of what your kids are watching.
The way children’s media handles water safety and the subject of drowning is a little strange. Think about all the Disney movies that depict traumatic scenes of drowning: “Lilo & Stitch,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Moana” all have devastating near-drowning scenes. Even some where characters must be resuscitated!
This can be really scary for kids. We’re not saying don’t let your child view these movies. That’s totally your call. But, it’s good to realize where your little wildling’s water anxiety might be coming from. And, if you watch films with these scenes, create a space to discuss it with your child.
Additionally, lots of TV shows and movies depict poor water safety. In “Bluey,” there’s a whole episode about Bandit forgetting all of Bluey’s and Bingo’s swim gear before heading to the pool. It’s meant to be funny and cute, but Bandit tells Bingo that since she can’t swim and he forgot her life vest, she can just stay where she can touch. Bandit, no way! (We still love Bluey. Don’t worry.)
The point is, be aware of what your kids are watching and how that might affect their learn to swim journey.
Fence in your pool and put away toys and furniture.
Safety near water is an even bigger deal if you’ve got a pool or you live on a waterfront property. If you have either of these, make sure you’re taking lots of precautions. Lock doors and put alarms on them, fence off the body of water, and make sure there are no toys or furniture items that can easily blow into the water. When this happens, it tempts your little wildlings to recover these items and put themselves at risk.
In the event something does happen, you want to be prepared. Take a simple online CPR course to ensure your family is prepped for the worst. Knowing this simple technique can save a life after a near drowning incident.
Water safety means you must always supervise. Keep the phone and book down. Don’t get too invested in your friends. And, definitely don’t walk away. Be supervising your little wildlings every minute they’re in the pool. Accidents can happen quickly. And, when it comes to water safety, you can’t be too careful.
Protect your children and reduce drownings by educating yourself on important water safety practices.
So, there you have it! Tribe, that was our comprehensive list of all things water safety! We hope you’ll be enrolling your little wildlings in quality lessons this summer and applying these swim safety tips. It’s our goal here at Alaskan Wildlings that you have a fun, memorable, and SAFE summer. We can’t wait to dive into all of this season’s amazing water activities!
Alaskan Wildlings swim diapers are coming soon! Stay tuned!