We’ve had some high temps so far this summer in metro Detroit, so we’re sure you and your family have been utilizing your local indoor or outdoor water park. But when it comes to water park outings with little ones, there’s lots of planning involved to make sure things are low key and enjoyable for all.
Here are some general do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning for your family’s day in the water.
Do dress your baby or toddler in a swim diaper
Among the common recommendations for parents or other caregivers of babies and toddlers is a call for swim diapers. Adriana Wilk, aquatic supervisor for the City of Warren, which is home of the indoor water park at the Warren Community Center, suggests all kids aged 3 and under wear one. She also suggests parents encourage their small children to take frequent bathroom breaks, a recommendation echoed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also urges parents to change dirty swim diapers away from the pool area in a designated baby changing area.
Some water parks and public pools may fine for violating this rule. Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park at Boyne Mountain Resort levies a $100 fine if a child without proper attire has an accident in the pool.
Do pack shower shoes
As for other types of attire, Wilk recommends indoor pool or water park visitors bring water shoes or flip flops to wear on the pool deck and in the locker room. For its part, the CDC recommends all pool and water park visitors wear footwear especially in locker rooms and showers to prevent athlete’s foot. Those with athlete’s foot should not swim or use public showers.
Do shower before getting in the pool
Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) can be avoided with a pre-pool rinse. Showering removes sweat and dirt that could contaminate the water and spread illness. The CDC also strongly recommends parents and children wash their hands after bathroom visits.
Had the runs? Do avoid the pool!
The CDC notes that the most common RWI is diarrhea. Germs that cause diarrhea can live in even well-maintained pools for hours or days. Swallowing even a small amount of contaminated water can lead to infection. The CDC recommends children or adults who have been sick with diarrhea in the previous two weeks avoid the pool.
Do get in the water with your children
Wilk is a big advocate for parents getting in the water with their kids and with good reason. The CDC reports that every day 14 people die from unintentional drowning, and two are children aged 14 and under. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.
Though most water parks and community pools are likely to have lifeguards on duty, Wilk strongly recommends parents bring a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for their young swimmers. The CDC recommends a designated responsible adult watches children at all times around any type of water. It recommends what is known as “touch supervision,” remaining close enough to reach the child at all times.
“Getting in the water with your child is also a great way to connect and build memories,” Wilk adds.
Don’t breastfeed in the water
While the CDC acknowledges that no formal studies have been done on breastfeeding in pools or hot tubs, it recommends women avoid the practice. One risk is that the baby could swallow a small amount of pool water, which could increase their risk for a RWI like diarrhea. A second risk is that the water temperature in a pool or hot tub could adversely affect the baby who is unable to control his or her body temperature like an adult or older child can. Water that is too hot could lead to hyperthermia; water that is too cold could lead to hypothermia.
Don’t assume towels are provided
Many indoor water parks provide towels for use by guests at the pool particularly those attached to a larger hotel or resort, but many do not. A good practice is to call ahead or check the pool or water park’s website to determine whether you need to bring your own.
Don’t hold hands on water slides
Wilk cautions visitors to the Warren Community Center indoor water park not to hold hands on the side-by-side water slides and likewise not to climb up any of the pool slides.
“Holding hands could cause the rider to pitch on exit or exit the slide improperly resulting in injury,” she says.
The latter recommendation is a safety precaution as swimmers could slip and fall and run the risk of colliding with riders on their way down.
This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.