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Water safety at the beach

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Forces of nature

During the warm and lazy days of summer, more than a few of us make a beeline for the beach. Whether a crowded public beach, a secluded private beach, the draw of the sun, waves and sand is powerful. Many a family has created strong childhood memories of splashing in the water and building sandcastles. Before you go, however, consider safety issues for the whole family. Specifically, consider water safety.

Woman at beach

Going to the beach - whether on the ocean or a beach on a lake - is not the same as going to the pool. Aside from the obvious, that there's just plain more of water, the forces that effect the water are different. A pool is a discrete, singular place. A lake or ocean beach has forces of nature.

Water safety basics

Just like at the neighborhood pool, basic water safety rules apply. Know your and your child's limits and abilities and act accordingly. Supervise all your children, not just the younger ones. Life vests and floaties may be appropriate aides to floation, but the are not foolproof. Nothing beats supervision!

Don't depend on lifeguards

Lifeguards are terrific safety resources, but with all that space to look after, they cannot keep an eye on your kids at all times. They are not babysitters! Look to lifeguard for support in an emergency if needed - but endeavor not to need them!

Listen to the lifeguard and respect their role in helping keep crowds of people safe. If the lifeguard says not to go into a certain area, don't. That said, you can ask why - and may even learn critical safety information in the process. For example, if there is an unpredictable current that often runs just outside the defined lifeguard area, the lifeguard will know that.

Respect for tides and currents

Speaking of tides and currents, these are some of the forces of nature that affect a beach that don't affect a pool. If you are going to an area of large tides, learn the tide chart and plan accordingly - not only for where to set up base, but where not to be when the tide comes in.

Always, always, always play it safe when it comes to tides and currents. Tides and currents can be powerful, and even strong, experienced swimmers have been caught in difficult to navigate currents. Water is a force! It's strong! Stronger than you! Best to head off any dangerous situations in the first place. Even in shallow water, current can be difficult to work against - and even more difficult for your small child. Err on the side of caution.

Establish family rules

Establish family rules for where the kids can play, how deep they can go into the water (knees? hips?), and promote the buddy system. With vigorous water play, kids can get tired (and water accidents can be more likely when tiredness is a factor), so make sure they have some rest time, too. Find balance in water and sand play, and make sure the kids are well-hydrated and have enough energy resources in the form of appropriate snacks.

We all want summer beach time to be fun. Make sure it's safe, too.?

More tips for a fun summer:

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