Swim Season Safety

April 23 2014, 10:00 AM

The start of swim season is less than five weeks away (as long as it doesn't snow in mid-May). The Memorial Day kickoff of pool covers means eager youngsters can finally dip more than their toes in the water. Getting comfortable in water is a right of passage for kiddos, but can be a nail-biter for on-looking parents, which is why the end of April is an opportune time for a refresher on how to keep your water bugs safe. Michael Mann, the founder of SwimLabs, offers five tips for parents to prep for a summer's worth of pool days. 

Head of the Class: Most people have memories of summer swim lessons, and they should. Mann suggests kids start swimming lessons during the preschool years. The goal is not to have them signed up for the 2032 Olympics, but to help them learn basic water knowledge. (Bonus tip: Dip your kid’s toes in a pool or a lake before class so that they have at least seen a body of water larger than a bathtub before lessons.)

Top to Bottom: In the deep end, kids need two skills. First, they need to be able to hold their breath, go to the pool floor, and push themselves back to the surface for another breath. Next, they must be able float safely on their back, until they can get back to an edge or noticed by a caregiver or lifeguard. 

Floating Away: Floating devices (water wings and inflatable rings) can be a fun way to give little swimmers a bit of independence in the water, but don't let them become dependent on them—especially in open water situations.

Lost in the Crowd: When your child is with a group of friends, they may be pushed past their capabilities in the water. Make sure your kid knows what situations they feel comfortable with in the water. If they're not ready for the deep end, offer them ways to opt out (like lobbying to play a game in the shallower end of the pool). 

Lifeguards Aren't Babysitters: "Kids are never water safe, ever," Mann says. Regardless of their age, there are always risks and dangers when children are in or around pools or lakes. Just a few inches of water can be the cause of a catastrophic accident. It's important for parents to be the guardians of their children at the pool. Lifeguards do their best to keep an eye on everyone, but with lots of action going on around them, it's imperative for each parent to be paying attention.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.