Summer is just around the corner, which means sprinklers, water balloons, backyard swimming pools and other ways to beat the heat.
It’s important to remember that water accidents can happen quickly—even if the water your child is playing in is only a few inches deep, or your child knows how to swim.
Just like it is never safe to leave your infant or toddler alone in the bathtub, same goes for any small bodies of water, including baby pools. Less obvious places to be careful around include: fishponds, ditches, fountains, rain barrels, and buckets filled with water.
Even just 1 inch of water is enough to drown an infant or toddler, but with precautions in place, you and your kiddos can have a splashing good time this summer.
Supervision is key
Before you head to the pool or the lake, designate a “water watcher” to stay with the kids while they play in or near the water. Rotate out the job with your partner, a friend, or family member, just like lifeguards do. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using “touch supervision” while kids are in the water, meaning that you stay within arms reach of your young child or nonswimmer when they are in or around water.
Water wings and other floaties are not a substitute for personal flotation devices (PFD) or lifejackets, and cannot prevent your child from drowning. PFDs are specifically designed to keep a child’s head above water.
Know the signs of drowning
Drowning can be silent and quick. It’s important to know what to look for: head low in the water, mouth at water level; head tilted back with mouth open; eyes closed or looking glassy and empty; hair over forehead or eyes; not using legs; hyperventilating or gasping; trying to roll over on the back; swimming as if climbing an invisible ladder.
Teach water safety
Talk to your kids about water safety and establish some rules to follow when at the pool or even playing at home. This could include:
“Never swim alone.”
“Know where a lifeguard is.”
“Always have a grownup with you when you are near water.”
“Walk, don’t run while at the swimming pool.”
“Tell a grownup when you are going to play in the backyard.”
With your safety precautions in place, now it’s time to have some fun in the water. Here are some play ideas: have a tea party in the kiddie pool; use pool noodles as light sabers; make a “washing station” with a tub of water and dish soap and scrub some toy cars or dinosaurs; make colored ice cubes and let them melt; make a fishing pond out of a kiddie pool; make an ocean scene in a pool, or tub of water.
Summer is such a sweet time to slow down and enjoy these moments with your child. Have fun soaking up the sun and staying cool by the pool!
Amanda Bedortha writes for Parenting Now, which partners with The Chronicle on content promoting better parenting.