How can I keep my child safe in the pool or at the beach?

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In the year between 1st July 2021 and 30th June 2022, 339 Australians tragically lost their lives to drowning, according to Royal Life Saving Australia. It's estimated that a further 686 people also experienced a non-fatal drowning incident.

Drowning can occur in water as shallow as 5cm deep, so whether you're at the beach, a friend's pool or even your own bathtub, your safety role as a parent is crucial.

Setting some ground rules for your child, ensuring that they never swim alone or unsupervised, and bringing the right gear to the beach are all great ways to enforce water safety for kids.

Here are some more ground rules for improving your kids’ pool safety.

1. Sign your kids up for swimming lessons

Swimming is an important survival skill and a smart (and fun!) way to exercise. And your kids can start enjoying it early. Did you know that kids as young as six months can start swimming lessons?

Head over to your community pool to sign your kids up for affordable swim lessons. Not only will they learn how to stay safe in the water, but they'll have so much more fun.

2. Get personal flotation devices for your kids

Children can drown in incredibly shallow water depths, so when you’re by the pool or at the beach, you should follow proper water safety protocol closely.

  • Floaties: Read labels carefully before buying arm floaties, water wings, or flotation devices for your kids. You want to bring home the safest option.
  • Life jackets: Talk to your kids about why it’s important for them to wear life jackets—even if they may seem silly. You never know when a water emergency may happen, so it’s smart to prepare for anything.

3. Walk—never run—at the pool

If a lifeguard's around, you better believe they'll blow their whistles at your kids if they’re scampering around the local pool—it’s easy to slip and fall on wet surfaces.

While most slips result in minor bumps and bruises, your child could hit their head and lose consciousness in a serious fall. Save your kids the screech of the pool whistle or the pain of a fall by teaching them about pool safety.

Make sure they know to walk around the pool and save the horsing around for a safer environment.

4. Have goggles handy

If your child slips underwater at the beach or other local swimming spot, it could be murky. Always keep goggles on hand so you can find your child quickly and easily in the water.

5. Establish a buddy system

If your kids are old enough to want a little independence, set up a buddy system with friends. Make sure your kids know that they’re in charge of looking out for one another and alerting an adult immediately if something happens.

Consider giving them a waterproof kid's GPS tracker or smartwatch so you can find them in a hurry or call to check in.

6. When possible, keep kids near a lifeguard

At the beach, make sure your kids know that they should swim between the red and yellow flags at all times. This will ensure they're always swimming in the safest spot and help won’t ever be too far away with lifeguards watching out for your little ones.

Though there aren't flags at your community pool, there will be lifeguards. Ensure your kiddos know where the nearest lifeguard is and to stay close by. It isn't always easy to spot a drowning victim, but certified lifeguards have what it takes to rescue people in distress and enforce pool safety rules. 

7. Use other water safety devices

There’s no such thing as being too safe around water. Consider buying some of the following water safety supplies to keep your kids secure when playing in the ocean or pool.

  • Pool alarms: Pool safety alarms come in many different styles: some monitor motion on the water’s surface, while others detect if a pool gate has been opened. Whether an animal, neighbour, or your child ventures into the pool area unsupervised, you’ll know about it.
  • Pool gates, nets, and covers: Every state and territory has laws about fencing off pools, so ensure that yours is well maintained and meets requirements. For any pool covers, verify that whatever option you choose can bear enough weight to keep your child safe.
  • Drain covers: Drains use suction to siphon water into the filter for cleaning. If your child swims near a drain, they could get stuck. Buy a drain cover that keeps hair, bathing suits, and body parts out.
  • Wearable alarm bracelets: You can buy a GPS tracker for your kids and set safe perimeter zones around the pool. That way, if they get too close to the water, you get an alert to save them from danger.

8. Recognise dangerous swimming conditions

When bringing your family to a beach, beware of dangerous conditions like rip currents, bluebottles, and the occasional kamikaze surfer. Familiarise yourself (and your child) with what to look out for by checking out our beach safety guide.

Final word

Small children should always be under adult supervision when around water. Use our tips to supplement your own parental instincts when it comes to pool and beach safety for kids.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen

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