I consider it a real blessing that our family has a backyard swimming pool. We have enjoyed many hours of family bonding time without having to gather the family, put them in the car and go somewhere. But I want to keep my kids safe while we’re at the pool. Here are some things I have done:
Talk safety with the kids. Kids are like sponges – they absorb anything you say to them. So we started early in talking safety with them. We told them that we were concerned about their safety at the pool. Phrased like that, the kids started to understand the inherent risks of the water, without being made afraid of it. When I say “if you run while you’re around the pool, you might fall and hurt yourself, and I don’t want that to happen to you,” they really get it. Here are some great resources with more information about pool safety:
Rules have consequences. We let the kids know that if we established a rule like “no running,” and they didn’t obey, we would remind them the first time, but after that, there would be a consequence. We might pull them from the pool for a few minutes, and if it continued, send them into the house for a time. When one of the boys pushed it, and we sent him in the house, all the kids understood that we were serious.
The safety of a fence. When we bought our home, the first thing we did was install a fence around the swimming pool. We made sure the fence had a locking gate, was not chain link, and was over 4 feet high. We told the kids that the fence was there for a reason, and one of our rules for pool play was that they would not try to get in the pool when we weren’t there.
Constant supervision. When our kids were toddlers, we held them when they were in the pool – no exceptions. As they got older, we have let them branch out and play in the pool, but we are always present. When one of us is on “kid watch” duty, that’s the only thing we’re doing. It doesn’t take long for a child to take a big gulp of water, panic, and get in trouble. I don’t slip inside to fix snacks, talk on the phone or anything while I’m watching my kids in the pool – their safety is just too important.
Swimming lessons. I have read articles which state that a child can have swim lessons when they are about 4 years old. By that age, they will have developed the skills to stay afloat. We signed our kids up for lessons when they reached that age, and now our water babies are really comfortable and confident in the water. We started early to orient our kids to the water – we took them in the water while we held them, and let them splash around. When it
came time for lessons, they were happy to be in the water and learning how to move around the right way.
The community pool. Our kids will spend a lot of time each summer at our local community pool, playing with their friends. We took them to that pool for a visit. We showed them depth markers, so they could estimate how deep the water would be where they swam. We pointed out the lifeguard in the tower, and said we expected them to follow his rules and obey him while they were in the pool.
I just love it when I see one of my kids heading to the diving board, and walking very slowly through a puddle next to the pool. It means our emphasis on safety is working, and that makes me smile.
Kaitlin Gardner started AnApplePerDay.com to further her passion for a family friendly, green living lifestyle. She is married to her college sweetheart and lives in Pennsylvania. She and her husband enjoy going for long hikes, to get out and enjoy nature. She is working on her first book about ways to live an eco-friendly, healthy, natural life.