With summer fast approaching and the relaxation of the current Covid-19 rules, many families will be thinking about holidays. Whether it’s an exotic getaway (remember them?), a campsite with a pool or even just a staycation in your garden with the paddling pool or the hot tub you invested in during last lockdown, it’s really important to give some thought to water safety. Our friends at Pure Swim Yorkshire, who run lessons at Novotel York and other venues, have put together some really valuable information and top tips to help our children enjoy the water safely, wherever you are.
It’s easy to think that because you’re at home, there’s a lifeguard present, it’s only shallow, or your child can swim, you don’t need to be worried, this infographic definitely shows why awareness of water safety is so important.
How can I keep my child safe around water?
The key to keeping any child safe around water is supervision. Even if you think the lifeguard is watching or they can swim, always have an eye on them, put the phone down, leave the book until later and even better still join them in the water! The complication also arises when there are several adults about – it’s so easy to think someone else is watching them. Having children of our own (all of whom can swim to varying abilities) we always verbally tag in and out of watching them. If you are in a group, stating a designated watcher means for that short time the adult is in charge and should be vigilant, so everyone else gets to relax a little.
Swim aids are also great, but things like woggles and floats, the child needs to keep hold of. Whilst armbands and back support floats are attached to the child, they need to be actively working with the aid to make sure they stay afloat. So if you are in the water for a longer period, it may well be worth investing in a lifejacket for your child (but lifejackets and swim aids are no substitute for supervision!).
Open water swimming – Rivers, lakes and seas
Rivers, lakes and seas are fabulous to swim and paddle in and make up a huge part of most family summers. We think that all children should get to experience the cold water on their toes! They do carry hidden risks that swimming pools do not, but as long as you stay vigilant you will stay safe.
Undercurrents are a big issue with rivers and seas, it is impossible to tell how strong the current is under the water’s surface, meaning you or your child could be easily dragged under or downstream or out to sea. Make sure you research the area you are going to swim in, keep young children close by at all times. If you’re on a beach, only swim in designated safety areas. Never use inflatables on open water, we’ve all seen the social media clips of children being taken out to sea on a giant unicorn, it can so easily happen…. Keep them for the pool!
The water temperature also needs to be considered, even on a blistering hot day/ open water rarely reaches 20 degrees in the UK and children can’t regulate their body temperatures as quickly as adults can. This means that hypothermia can happen quickly, so keep an eye out for blue lips or shivering and regularly encourage your child to warm up under a towel on the water’s edge, or actively keep moving in the water. If you are planning a lot of river, lake or seaside days, then it’s probably worth investing in a wet suit or a thermal top for your children (and probably yourself too!).
Water at home – Pools, hot tubs and baths
At home, you can be easily lulled into a false sense of security with water activities, or become distracted with household chores whilst the kids play. Supervision is key, and there are things you can do to help keep your children safe:
If you have a hot tub or overground pool, ensure that it is securely covered when not in use. If it’s a smaller paddling pool or even a water container, make sure it is emptied immediately after every use. Store them upside down so they don’t collect water. Younger children can easily drown in very little water. Also be careful when filling pools: the water in hosepipes can reach boiling point on a hot day, so it can scald. Always direct the first bit of hosepipe water into the bushes and never let a child be the first to start the hosepipe.
Talk to your children about safety. When diving under the water, they could get their hair caught in the hot tub/swimming pool filters (we’ve all seen the 999 episode in the 80’s) or they slip and bang their heads. Talk to your children about how to attract your attention if something has gone wrong and how and what would they shout if they genuinely needed help from a grown-up.
Bathtime – Before bath time begins, have the towel and anything else you may need ready, so you don’t have to leave your baby or young child alone in the bath, even for a few seconds.
Essential swimming skills
While some children will go onto compete in the Olympic swimming team, for most of us swimming is a fun skill for weekend and holidays. More importantly, it’s an essential life skill, so please make sure your children know how to swim and have these five water survival skills:
– Step, straddle or jump into deep water.
– Be able to return to the surface and float or tread water for at least one minute.
– Be able to turn around in a full circle and safely find an exit from the water or hold on until help arrives.
– Be able to swim 25 metres to exit the water.
– Exiting safely from the water – even in a pool, to be able to exit without using the pool steps.