At Crème de la Crème, there’s nothing we prioritize higher than the safety of your kids. While our students are engaged in learning or play, we make sure they are always under adult supervision, especially around water. We think it’s extra important to make sure that children stay safe while they enjoy swimming and playing in the water. Here are some valuable safety tips from experts to help you teach your kids water safety.

Life Jackets Are Essential

A young boy swims in a pool with his lifejacket

Child jumping into pool” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by BuzzFarmers

There are lots of different flotation devices for children on the market. Inflatable arm cuffs or inner tubes might seem like they give kids a better sense of security in the water, but drowning investigator Natalie Livingston says none of those are safety devices. She says the only device you can trust for safety is a life jacket approved by the USCG (United States Coast Gard), and those need to fit the child well so they don’t rise above the child’s chin or ears.

Livingston suggests making life jackets a part of your kids’ water activities from a very young age so they’re used to wearing them and understand their value. If you’re the one hosting the pool party, you can make life jackets mandatory to set a good example for other families. Too many kids end up in positions they can’t get out of with rings or other inflatable devices, she says.

Constant Adult Supervision

Any parent at the pool has heard the words, “Watch me!” When kids are enjoying play, they often like to try new things, like jumping off the side or testing their swimming skills along the lengths of the pool. Though they’re usually asking for your approval, “Watch me!” is a vital swimming safety tool, too. Though it’s tempting to relax on a lounge chair with a magazine or catch up on social media posts, Livingston says it’s imperative to have at least one adult who’s the constant “water watcher.” 

To make sure adults stay vigilant, you can team up with other responsible adults at the pool to take shifts where you put away any distractions and just watch the kids. But Livingston suggests keeping your trust pool very small. Relying on the lifeguards (if there are any) isn’t enough, Livingston says. Especially at a busy pool, lifeguards have to keep their eyes on the whole area. You only have to supervise your own kids. She suggests setting an alert on your phone or watch that goes off every minute to help you avoid natural distractions.

Drowning Education

According to the CDC, the scary reality is that drowning is one of the leading causes of injury death for children ages 1 to 14. Kids can drown in just inches of water. The goal of water safety education is to help kids recognize the dangers without making them too scared to enjoy water activities. Adult supervision, approved life jackets, and swimming lessons go a long way in drowning prevention, but kids can also be an important part of what Livingston calls the “safety team.” 

By teaching kids what drowning looks like, they can become more aware of their surroundings at a pool or the beach. Livingston discourages her own kids from playing any kind of “hold your breath” games and teaches them to notice when a kid is underwater, even if they think the kid is just playing. They learn to start counting to five, and if the child underwater doesn’t pop up by the time the counter gets to five, they should yell for an adult or a lifeguard. 

Livingston also helps her kids understand that a panicking person in distress may try to grab onto anyone nearby. The method for escape is easy to remember: Suck, Duck, and Tuck. Suck in a breath, duck under the water, and tuck by pushing away from the panicking person with your arms and legs, then come up and yell for an adult. 

Take Breaks

Some kids would stay in the water until their hands and feet are like raisins, but taking breaks out of the water is important. Kids might not be able to recognize or acknowledge when they’re getting fatigued, which makes swimming and treading water more difficult. In the water, they also might not notice that they’re hungry or thirsty. On a hot day, it’s especially important to get them out of the water to drink some fluids and have an energy-boosting snack.

Breaks give you a chance to reapply sunscreen and relax a little from your own water supervising vigilance. It’s a good time to assess for any injuries, and it can also help by disrupting any games or conflicts with other kids in the water. Kids tend to move on from activities very quickly, so a designated time out of the water gives you a chance to break up a concerning game or interaction without having to discipline publicly.

Talk about the plan for breaks before anyone gets in the water — maybe on the car ride to the pool. Help your kids understand it’s not a penalty, but another tool in the box of water safety. If there’s a visible clock, you can tell them to watch the clock and be aware of break time, or you can give five-minute warnings. If you have a child who becomes overwhelmed by the noise and chaos of water activities, you may consider letting them bring a book or something to draw with during a more extended break to help calm them down.We hope these four safety tips will help your family next time you enjoy a day at the pool. By helping your kids understand that all of you are united on the “safety team,” they can feel empowered by the rules and choices your family makes near water. Are there any tips that work well for your family? We would love to hear about them. Please feel free to contact us and let us know anything we missed. Like you, we want your children to be healthy, happy, and safe in all their activities.