Whether it’s swimming in the backyard pool, the beach or at the cottage, drowning is one of the leading causes of preventable injury and death in children 10 and under, according to the Canadian Red Cross. 60 per cent of these drownings occur during June, July and August.
This is why learning water safety for kids is essential as their lives can depend on it. Follow these tips to help your kids have a safe summer by the water.
At the pool
1. Swimming lessons
If this hasn’t been done already, enroll your children in swimming lessons. Visit your local swimming pool and find out what levels they offer. From parent-and-tot swimming classes to adult swimming lessons, there most likely will be a place for your children to receive proper training and learn how to swim.
2. Keep watch
Make sure a trusted adult will supervise the children in the water. This is especially important if you are swimming an area with no lifeguards around, like a backyard pool. A general rule of thumb is to be within arm’s reach when your child is in the water, which means you or a trusted adult should be in the water with them. Make sure you are listening to all the children in the water as drowning can be silent rather than full of splashes.
3. Establish pool rules
Having a residential pool can be terrific, but it should also be used responsibly. As a family, establish a list of pool rules for everyone to follow. This can include: no running or roughhousing near the water, no diving head first and no one swims alone etc.
4. Perimeter around the pool
The Canadian Red Cross recommends building a fence around your pool with a self-closing, self-latching gate. The gate should be closed majority of the time. Be sure to review municipal bylaws about fencing regulations.
At the beach or cottage
5. Wear lifejackets
If you are planning to swim at the cottage or go for a boat ride, make sure your children are wearing Canadian-approved lifejackets that are the right size. Wearing a lifejacket is not only required by the law, but it can be one of the best defences against hypothermia and drowning. Help encourage water safety behaviour for your kids by wearing your own lifejacket in the boat.
6. Be aware of currents
It’s important to not misjudge currents. Even strong swimmers can have a rough time swimming against currents. If you or any of your children do get caught in a rip current, remain calm to save your energy. Swim out of the current in a direction towards the shore. If anyone is unable to get out of the current, have someone call 911 and throw a flotation device towards the target.
7. Use the buddy system
When swimming at the beach or at the cottage, make sure to have older kids swim with a buddy. This way no child will be in the water by themselves. You can pair your child with their friend or sibling, letting them know they are to look out for their buddy. Remember, a buddy system will still require adult supervision.
8. Watch the weather forecast
Pick a day to go swimming when it’s hot out and the skies are clear. Check the weather conditions before you leave. If heavy rain and winds are in the forecast, postpone swimming to another sunny day.