Water Safety Skills On Vacation–and at Home

Tips to help parents keep kids safe in pools, at the beach, even in the bath tub.

By Sue Mackie, Executive Director of United States Swim School Association

After a long winter of chilly temperatures and gray skies, summer vacation is anticipated by parents and kids alike. Dreams of tropical vacations and trips to amusement parks finally come true, but for most children, the last time they were swimming was several months ago, and skills can get rusty. Trips to relatives’ homes in warm climates, visits to the beach, and hotels with pools can create a situation where children could be at a higher risk for getting into a situation where drowning is possible. Rather than just allowing children to jump into the water, there are steps parents should take to help ensure the safety of their family around pools, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water.

Summer Vacation Water Safety Tips

  1. Create a verbal cue that must be given by an adult before children can enter the pool.
  2. Select a parent to be the designated “water watcher”. This adult should not be drinking alcohol while children are in or near water.
  3. Always go with children to the hotel pool. Do not let them swim unsupervised. Just because you are on vacation does not mean you are on vacation from being a responsible parent. Don’t allow children to go to the kiddie pool without adult supervision. Lounging in the adult pool while your kids are swimming alone is an accident waiting to happen.
  4. Do not use water wings or pool floats as a substitution for supervision if your child is not a strong swimmer.
  5. Take time to familiarize your children with the pool they will be swimming in, i.e. where the shallow and deep ends are, where stairs to get in and out are located, where they can and cannot swim.
  6. If visiting a beach destination, do not rely on lifeguards to constantly monitor your children. You cannot be sure how experienced a lifeguard is and should never assume. It might take a new guard time to notice an unsafe situation, and you need to be ready to react first if your child needs help.
  7. Before allowing children to wade into the ocean, explain to them that they need to constantly be watching for waves that could knock them over and other potential dangers. Parents should constantly be on the lookout, as well.
  8. If cousins and relatives are swimming together, gather the adults of your extended family and create an agreed upon set of pool rules before the kids are allowed into the water. It is also important for the adults of the group to meet and discuss each child’s skill level prior to allowing the kids into the water so everyone has the same expectations of what is normal or an emergency.
  9. If you have a pool at home, be sure to take precautions before traveling. Secure fences, gates, door locks and covers so an accident does not occur while you are away.

Bath Time

While summer pool and beach season instill in parents a heightened concern about water safety, water around the home still poses a serious threat to the safety of young children. According to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, from 2006 to 2010 there were 684 incidents involving children younger than five-years-old drowning in products such as bathtubs, buckets, bath seats, toilets and landscaping features. More than 400 of these incidents were fatal, and after pools, bathtubs are the second leading location where young children drown. 

Some of the first steps parents need to take to teach their children potentially lifesaving water skills can begin just a few weeks after birth. Instead of treating bath time as a chore, parents can use it as an opportunity to teach their infants and young children how to be comfortable and safe in water by implementing this list of tips.

Bathtub Safety Tips

  • Fill your bathtub with the amount of water normally used during bathing and use a stopwatch to time how long it takes to drain. Never leave the bathroom unsupervised after a bath until that amount of time has passed.
  • Do not turn on the faucet and allow a bathtub to fill with water without a parent in the room watching at all times.
  • Learn how to properly perform age appropriate CPR in case an accident ever does occur.
  • If you always lift your children into and out of the tub during bath time, teach your kids how to and have them practice getting in and out of the tub on their own while you supervise.

Tips for Teaching Water Safety at Bath Time

  • Do not rely on plastic baby tubs as the only bath time option. Showering with baby can help accustom him/her to the feeling of water splashing down his/her face and help with learning to breathe in water.
  • Fill a regular bathtub with enough water so you can hold your baby in it and float baby on his/her back. Hold baby behind the shoulders and cup the head so baby can’t turn his or her mouth into the water. This will help baby learn how it feels to have water in his/her ears and teach that it is possible to breathe when floating in water.
  • Before you pour water over your baby’s head and into his or her eyes and ears, give a cue that the water is about to come splashing down. This helps stop babies from being startled and associating water on their faces with being scared and uncertain.
  • Blowing bubbles helps babies learn they are in control of their breath and makes them comfortable with putting their face in water. Teach children to blow bubbles on cue and make it fun by blowing different types of bubbles.

Finding a Top Swim School

US Swim School Association (USSSA) began in 1988 to fill a gap in the swim school industry. USSSA has become the largest and preeminent swim school association in the country with more than 400 members providing swim and water safety instruction to over 500,000 students each year. Swim schools that are USSSA members receive the latest training in water safety, swim instruction methods and tools. Parents and students can rest assured they have chosen a reliable and trustworthy swim school when they choose a USSSA affiliated location. For more information, visit www.usswimschools.org.

USSSA Swim Schools in Houston

Houston Swim Club
8307 Augustine
Houston, TX 77036
Web Site: http://www.houstonswimclub.com

Pengu Swim School, LLC
984 Wakefield
Houston, TX 77018
Web Site:http://penguswimschool.com

SwimJim, Inc.
1100 Wilcrest Ave. Suite 109
Houston, TX 77042
Web Site:http://www.swimjim.com

Houston Swim Club Cypress
19702 Northwest Frwy
Houston, TX 77065
Web Site:http://www.houstonswimclub.com

Saint Street Swim
2717 Saint St.
Houston, TX 77027
Web Site:http://www.saintstreetswim.com

Wolfies Swim School
4210 Bellaire
Houston, TX 77025
Web Site:http://www.wolfiesswimschool.com