Kids manage to injure themselves in a variety of ways we could’ve never predicted, and in this cruel world, children can be struck down by unpreventable disease. But there are two potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations that most children frequently encounter over which parents and caregivers have a great deal of control: motor vehicle collisions and drowning. Did you know that those are the top two causes of unintentional deaths among children aged 1 to 14? (Source)
While we can’t prevent every accident, near water and in vehicles there’s a lot we can do to actively protect our children. As you may know, I recently became certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician to help teach parents how to keep their children safe in vehicles. Through my blog I advocate for best practices when it comes to choosing, installing and using car seats and booster seats to best protect children in the event of a collision. Today I’m using my valuable platform to remind us all about water safety.
Last year we received a horrifying text message. The 3-year-old son of a close friend had been found non-responsive in his family’s above-ground pool. His father is a first-responder, and his life-saving manoeuvres literally saved his son’s life. As with any water accident, mere seconds would’ve made the difference between life and death.
So what happened? Did my friend’s son sneak out of the house unnoticed and fall into the pool? Were his parents simply not paying attention? No, honestly, the cause of this accident was something I think most of us can completely relate to: there were a lot of adults in the yard that day, and everyone thought someone else was watching the kids in the pool.
Active supervision of children in and around water—be it an inflatable pool on your lawn, an in-ground pool in a backyard, a lake, the ocean or a bathtub—is the best way to prevent accidental drownings. If you know YOU are not watching the kids, make sure you know who is. Eye contact is the key. You make eye contact with the other adult and verbally confirm that they are actively supervising the children before you step away.
I recently saw an inflatable pool that actually came with a reusable sticker for the active supervisor to wear on their shirt. If you’ve got a backyard party going on, this is a great way to remind all the adults that someone must always be in charge of the kids around the pool.
While enjoying a friend’s backyard pool recently, my husband and I continuously made sure each of us was supervising one of our children.
Since pool-time tends to involve a lot of excited screeching, I also taught Cub that if he felt like he was in danger to yell “Help!” rather than just cry out. It can be easy to confuse children’s shouts of joy with their screams of terror!
Now that he’s gained confidence in the water, I noticed that Cub was getting in the water without telling us first, so we’ve taught him to specifically tell an adult when he wants to get back into the pool.
While life jackets don’t mean you can supervise any less, requiring their use for non-swimmers and weak swimmers of all ages is another way to prevent accidental drowning. Cub wears a life jacket in the pool and is gaining more and more confidence with his kicking to motor himself around.
He also wears a life jacket, as we all should, when participating in water sports, such as a recent kayak ride in Jasper.
Swimming lessons are critical to everyone’s water safety. It’s never too late or too early to learn to swim: The Red Cross offers swimming lessons for babies, adults and everyone in between.
Little Miss Cub just turned two, and together we recently completed our first “Mommy and me” swimming lessons at our local pool. The people really learning things in this class aren’t the wee ones … they’re the parents. Caregivers learned to establish clear rules for our toddlers around the water, such as waiting for our permission to enter and exit the pool. We repeatedly practised having our toddlers sit on the pool’s edge, waiting for us to enter the pool before they could jump or climb in. Little Miss Cub’s surprising upper body strength made her a pro at climbing out of the pool unassisted.
At almost 5, Cub also completed his first level of swimming lessons. Besides learning to float and blow bubbles, there was a heavy focus on general water safety.
Other Water Safety Reminders:
- Drain kiddie pools when not in use.
- Give children in and around water your full attention: No texting. No reading. No doing chores.
- Take children out of the water and bring them with you if you need to step away from the pool.
- Teach children to play safely in and near water.
- Ensure that your backyard pool is properly fenced and gated.
- Avoid consuming alcohol or otherwise impairing your judgment if you are the active supervisor.
Read more water safety tips from The Red Cross and watch their water safety video: