5 Pool Safety Rules For Young Children

Photo Credit: Gustavo Devito via Flickr
Photo Credit: Gustavo Devito via Flickr

It is a real joy to watch children learn the magic and fun that comes from being in a pool. You can almost see their minds at work as they feel the lightness of water, and watch them brighten up. Yet there are inherent risks which come with being in the water. So here are 5 safety rules for young children around the water:

1) Life jackets for the young ones. This is a very important item, and every small child should wear a life jacket when they’re in the water. This is not a “one size fits all” situation – there are a lot of choices for a safety jacket, and they don’t depend on age as much as the size of the child. If the child weighs between 8 and 30 pounds, they wear a jacket for infants, and between 30 and 50 pounds, a child sized jacket. This means that over time, as the child grows, a different life jacket might be required. Try the jacket on the child before getting in the water, so they can get used to it.

2) Always within reach. A very small child should be held by the parent at all times. As the child grows, they can venture out a little bit to test their water skills. Even then, make sure the child is within arm’s reach. It doesn’t take long for a child to get in trouble – an unexpected gulp of water is enough to make the child panic. Always keep them close enough that the parent can rescue the child, and not have the situation escalate.

3) No swimming unsupervised. Think about it – you’ve introduced your child to the joys of the swimming pool, and they really took to the experience. The child will be thinking about going back out and having some more of that fun. That’s why it must be clearly stated that the children are not to be in the pool without Mom and Dad in attendance. If necessary, repeat this talk several times until the children really understand the importance and the why of this rule – you don’t want anything to happen to them, or for them to be hurt. Kids will push boundaries, so it’s good to have a safety fence around the pool.

4) Always have someone watching. When the kids are in the water, designate someone to watch them. That doesn’t mean while the parent is chatting on the cell phone, or ducking into the house to fix a snack. The person who watches should only be doing that. If one parent gets a phone call they need to take, turn over the watcher duties to the other parent. Check out these sites to learn even more about dealing with young children in the pool:

American Red Cross: Home Pool Safety

In the Swim Blog: Babies in the Pool! Get Ready for Swim Season

University of Michigan: Water and Pool Safety

5) Rules have consequences. Start with a clear definition of the pool rules for the family. There are some obvious ones like “no running,” or “no swimming by yourself.” But children, especially the young ones, will be tempted to test the boundaries. Have a family meeting, and go over proper pool behavior, so the children know what is expected of them, and clarify the rules. Establish consequences for the children, so if they cross the line, they know what will happen. Let them know that the rules have a purpose – to keep them safe – and the consequences will be taken seriously.

The first time a child runs down the side of the pool and is made to sit on the sidelines for a time, it will get their attention. The next time, when the child walks slowly, a parent can smile, knowing that they are providing a safe pool environment for their family.

Article written by Becky Flanigan.