There's a reason (or two or 12) summer is loved by so many. With endless amounts of sunshine, exciting vacation plans and long, warm days filled with tons of activities, why wouldn't it be?
A favorite go-to activity for families during the summer is spending a day poolside, laughing, splashing and doing cannonballs. Unfortunately for parents, there's a lot more to spending a day by the pool than just fun and games — taking kids swimming is sometimes more nerve-wracking than it is relaxing. Thankfully though, with a little preparation and swim safety education, parents can make sure this summer is one their kids are sure to remember. So whether your family is catching some rays or chasing waves, here's what you need to do to keep your kids safe in those swimmies.
The need for sunscreen shouldn't be a new concept for anyone, but a refresher in proper precautions never hurt anyone. Just a few sunburns can increase a person's risk for developing skin cancer at some point in their life, so protecting your child's fragile skin from the sun is extremely important. If you're planning to spend a day outdoors, be sure you're applying sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15, UVA and UVB protection. Apply it before heading outdoors, and reapply every 30 minutes or so (depending on what the instructions tell you), especially after your child has been in water. There are a lot of great sunscreens for kids that are more than capable of protecting your child, but just to be safe, it's better to keep their skin covered (reasonably) and to seek shade when it's available. For the best protection, a combination of all of the above is recommended.
Floaties may seem like a good option for keeping your child's head above water in the pool, but many experts claim they are actually more of a toy than a safety device. They can slip off, leak air and may restrict arm movement, which is a huge hazard in the water. Children can also easily take them off themselves, which may happen when a child gets too confident in the water. Life jackets, on the other hand, have a customizable fit and will support your child in the water without restricting their movement. There's no substitute for the watchful eye of a parent while in the water, but if you're looking for something that will actually help you keep your child safe, a life vest is a much more solid choice than swimmies.
If your child isn't yet able to swim, it's important that you closely examine the gear they're using. Of course, if they can't yet swim, they should never be left unsupervised, but it takes only a few seconds of not paying close enough attention for a fun day to turn into every parent's nightmare. If they're using arm floaties, make sure they fit well enough that they won't slip off. If they're using a life vest, make sure it fits properly — not too loose and not too tight — so that it won't come off or become a choking hazard if it rides up too high. Also, check out any floats or safety gear for holes and rips to make sure they won't deflate once pressure is applied to them.
Depending on where you're swimming, it's important to be aware of your child's surroundings. Hidden dangers like undercurrents and underwater plants, rocks and roots could all be harmful if you're in an ocean, river or lake. If you're at a pool, it's good to be aware of the other kids and parents at the pool too. Is it crowded? Are there bigger kids running around and not paying attention? We all want to have fun, but for parents of little kids, the fun comes secondary to safety.
It may seem like fitting your kid with a flotation device will give him a leg up when learning to swim, but it may actually do the opposite. Arm floaties and life vests both teach kids to float and swim while vertical in the water, which is completely the wrong position, and they don't allow the right arm movement for most swim strokes. They also give a false sense of security — both for you and your child — making you less observant and your child more ready to jump in without them on, even if he's far from ready. The first thing a child should learn when he hits the pool is that jumping in without an adult has big consequences, and swimmies take away those consequences.
Even if your child has learned how to swim, you should still pay attention to them while they're in the water. One mistake, one unexpected slip or fall or jump could cause them to panic, and panicking in water is never a good thing. If your child is confident in their swimming, that's definitely comforting, but don't try to push them beyond their comfort level before they're ready.
Now, go have some fun in the sun!
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