The hot temps are here, and you know what that means: Pool time! But a swimsuit and sunscreen aren’t the only things your kids need before going for a dip. Water safety is a must – and it could possibly save their lives.
Here are some swimming safety tips and a quick refresher course with Chris McCuiston, CEO and co-founder of the local Goldfish Swim School franchise.
1. Prep your pool
Got one? Kid-proofing it should be first on your list. “Make sure your pool is fenced in,” says McCuiston, who is a father of four. “If not in use, have a firm, sturdy cover that is heavy and easy to lock. Also, make sure the gate latches are high so that no child can pop it open and get in.”
2. Get swim gear
Maybe your child can’t swim well – or at all. You look for every float possible to attach to your kid. Right? Not so fast. Those aren’t as reliable as a life jacket, which is all your kid really needs, says McCuiston. “We recommend a Coast Guard-approved life jacket if they can’t swim. Make sure it’s snug and won’t fall off easily.”
3. Coach your kid
You take your kids to the local pool and notice how deep and shallow the water looks on opposite ends. Parents worry. But don’t anxiously caution children.
“Instead, teach the kids to respect the water,” McCuiston says. “Then, get them into swim lessons to let them practice quite a bit and get more comfortable. It’s about being in the water as often as possible.”
4. Keep watch
Your kid may be a pretty good swimmer, so you walk away briefly. Not good. Anything can happen in those couple minutes. Surprisingly, McCuiston says many parents don’t realize how dangerous this is.
“A lot of parents think that many people are watching their children,” he says, “but it’s critical that you keep an eye on your child or you designate someone else to watch them.”
5. Stay calm
You hear a loud splash. Your kid fell in the pool and can’t swim. What do you do? “First, call for help,” says McCuiston. “Then, act – whether as a group or individually.
“If the child is old enough, throw something in the pool that floats for the child to grab. Depending on the severity, it might be necessary for the parent to jump in.”
6. Float, breathe, scream
In dangerous situations, it’s important for kids to keep calm and use basic skills. If they can swim, it’s as simple as turning around and swimming to safety.
But if not, they can do these three things: “Roll then float on their back, catch a breath and scream for help,” says McCuiston. “If they haven’t learned this, there’s a greater chance of drowning.”
Illustration by Mino Watanabe
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.