Summer Swimming And Water Safety

May 30, 2012


Mother and children at swimming pool

The temperatures in Houston are reaching a slow simmer — that means flocking to the nearest beach, water parks and backyard or neighborhood pools in search of some rays and relaxation! Before picking out the trendiest swim gear for your little ones or buying the coolest new floating toy, here are some simple tips to ensure you keep them safe.

While water is a cool and refreshing escape, it can be very dangerous if taken lightly! As a former competitive swimmer of 15 years and former swim coach of children ages 3-18, let me share with you some simple tips (in addition to general rules of thumb: adult supervision, obeying pool rules, etc…) to keep your kids prepped for floating fun!

Younger Children (approximately ages 2-7):

  • It’s important for your children to NOT have fear of the water. Start making them comfortable and secure in the pool when they

    are very young — bouncing your child in the water and briefly taking them underwater with you is helpful in reducing apprehension and building confidence.

  • Ensure your child has a plan if they were to accidentally fall in a pool. Make sure they know to stay calm — this will help their body naturally float to the surface. Then kick their legs to the closest set of steps. Make sure they have a good awareness of where all these steps are located.
  • Avoid purchasing “floaties” (the circular flotation devices often worn around the upper arm). Although these keep them afloat, it is much too easy for these to slip off if they contact the water at a strong force, or with the arms straight in the air. Floaties also keep the arms at an awkward angle (an unnatural swimming position) and do not teach the body to support itself evenly in the water. Perhaps try purchasing a bathing suit with a built-in life jacket or flotation device in the chest/torso area. This provides flotation for the core while promoting proper body position in the water.

Older Children (approximately ages 8-16+):

  • Monitor time of vigorous activity and splashing in the pool. Although your children may not vocalize that they are tired, exhaustion is often what leads to accidents.
  • Never, never, never allow running or any type of horseplay on pool decks. It’s often a hidden puddle that creates a painful slip — resulting in a broken bone or stitches.
  • Always check pool depth before diving or attempting any tricks. Just because it looks “deep enough” that’s not always the case.
  • Although hot tubs can be a great source of bubbles and relaxation, keep time in a Jacuzzi to a minimum, especially when the air temperature is warm as well. This can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
  • Beware of swimming in any jewelry. Long necklaces and other chains can easily become sucked into pool pumps and gauges. This is true for adults, too.

General Helpful Terms & Tips:

  • Blowing Bubbles: This is where you place your mouth just at the surface of the water and blow out of your mouth and nose. This is a helpful tool to teach younger swimmers to avoid getting water in their nose and mouth.
  • Airplane Arms: This term is helpful when teaching your little one to float. Have them casually roll over on their back and stick their arms out wide, just like an airplane. This helps balance the body into a float. They must also stay very relaxed.
  • Chipmunk Cheeks: This term is also helpful when teaching your little one to float. When they roll over, taking a big breath (to fill your cheeks) ensures they get enough oxygen.
  • Teach kicking from the hips, rather than from the knees. Knowing to keep your legs straight helps bring your hips to the surface of the water, aiding in flotation.

On a personal note, summer and club swim teams are a great way to learn water safety and fun! They also teach discipline, keeping your kids active, athletic and engaged during summer. Who knows – it may even turn into a lifetime of passion for the sport and create lasting friendships! It did for me.

Now lather on that sunscreen, sport the coolest new bathing suit and hit the waves or the pool for some (SAFE) fun in the sun!

For an in-depth dive into water safety in all different swimming environments (pool, beach, river, water parks, etc…) visit the American Red Cross Water Safety Tip web site.

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