School’s out for the summer!
Well, if you’re in Texas it is. And for us, that means swimming season is in full swing. I am fortunate enough to spend a few hours each day teaching children how to swim. Regardless of whether a child is a first-time swimmer or working on stroke development, we always spend a few minutes talking about pool safety.
Before opening the gate to my pool, I remind the child that they are never to enter a pool or lake or pond without permission from mom or dad (or another trusted adult). They should wait until their adult buddy is within arms reach before getting into the water.
Secondly, we always enter the pool feet first unless we are working on a specific diving skill. We talk about how to find the steps or a ladder from the side of the pool. Kids should spend a few moments on the steps getting used to the water and letting their brain and muscles communicate rather than just jumping in from the side.
Next, I like to point out that even though I am in the water with the child, the child needs to make sure s/he has my attention before jumping out towards me. I teach the child a cue to use—something simple like having the child shout “Please watch (child’s name)!” works well. If you want to make doubly sure your child gets an adult’s attention before jumping into the water or off of the steps, teach them a call & response cue where the child says, “Are you ready, Mommy?” and the adult replies: “Mommy is ready!”
For more advanced swimmers who are ready to learn simple diving skills, I have teach them to NEVER dive head-first into water unless a parent or trusted adult first gives permission. Furthermore, I teach the child the importance of using his/her hands to enter the water before the head as another precaution. We usually have a short discussion about how some kids may find “prisoner dives” or “soldier dives” (hands held behind the back while diving in headfirst) fun, but they are not worth the small but serious injury risk.
Most importantly, kids need to understand that the water is lots of fun, but swimming takes a lot of energy. It is important for parents to set an age-appropriate time limit for swimming so that kids aren’t in the water exhausted. Swimming is a full-body, neuromuscular challenge. Adults need to remember that the combination of exercise and sun makes kids very tired, and tired kids are more likely to get hurt.
For my own children, we have two main pool rules. One is that we use walking feet around the pool. The other is that everyone keeps his body to himself. With those two rules, I feel confident my boys can have fun and stay safe.
You can find what the American Academy of Pediatrics has a web page devoted to sun and water safety. It’s worth a read, even if just to get the safety tips back to the forefront of your mind.
Good health and great happiness this summer!